Students living at the Westin have a less traditional college experience than most freshmen. While they don’t get room service, pool access, or a room to themselves, all rooms come with a hotel mini-fridge, king or queen-sized beds, a bathroom and a view. As opposed to having RAs, students have International Coordinators, or ICs, which is universal across the N.U.in programs.
The biggest concern for many students is the distance from the Westin Copley Hotel to campus, which is almost a mile and an 11-minute ride on the T. The nearest dining hall is at Symphony Hall, which is an 11-minute walk from the Westin.
“It’s been difficult, at times, just to get out of the room,” said Jack Price, a first-year computer engineering major. “It’s tempting to just stay in there all day long. It’s an investment to get all the way to campus, so if you’re going to go you want to know like ‘Okay, I have everything I need, I have a reason for going down to campus.’”
Riana Baust, a first-year in the Explore Program, said she usually chooses to attend her classes online rather than go all the way to campus, unless she is getting food or a COVID-19 test. The elevators have also created an obstacle in getting to campus, she said. There’s a four-person limit, so during peak times it can be difficult to leave the hotel or get back to your room.
“Obviously when everyone’s going to the dining hall at 7 p.m., it’s going to be a little crowded. Especially when there’s guests in the hotel, too,” Baust said. “Whenever I see someone evading the four-person policy, it’s always a guest. It’s never a student, because the students know that the ICs are going to attack them and write them up.”
Some students have found that it’s not only inconvenient to be so far from campus, but also isolating.
“I do feel like the N.U.in program does feel a little distant from the rest of campus and the other Northeastern students because we’re in a different program,” said first-year finance major Kameron Courtwright.
Like other first-year students, N.U.in students have had to be creative when it comes to meeting new people and spending time with friends. Students living in the Westin utilized various social media platforms to make plans online before meeting in person.
“We have a class Discord, which I am a moderator of,” Price said. “That’s been very helpful in meeting new people and getting to know people. We’ve set up real-life hangouts, we’ve gone to lunch and everything, obviously socially distanced and being safe.”
Baust said she has used elevators as a place to start conversations and meet people and then made plans on Snapchat. Although Courtwright said that she’d been able to meet people in the hallways and then direct messaged them to make plans to get food, it has been difficult to get to know fellow residents.
“I’d consider myself an extrovert, but it’s still been really hard, especially with everyone wearing a mask, to be able to see their face and recognize them,” she said. “But you really have to figure stuff out or you’re not going to make friends.”
Price, Baust and Courtwright said that the majority of N.U.in students they’d met were doing their best to follow safe COVID-19 practices, including social distancing and wearing masks.
“Generally, people are being as responsible as possible. When people come out and they hang out in groups it’s difficult to stay six feet apart, but everyone that I’ve interacted with is trying to be as safe as is reasonable and following all the rules that they can. [It is] definitely not a huge party experience,” Price said. “We’ve gotten a pretty bad [reputation] just because of the actions of a couple of people. Everyone that I’ve interacted with has been really on their game COVID-wise.”
Baust also talked about the difference between how the program has been depicted and what it’s actually like.
“I just don’t like how the media portrays freshmen students as careless and reckless because I feel as though a good 95 percent of the population of the Westin is just trying to do their best and follow the rules,” she said. “We’re better than a lot of other colleges, like the University of Alabama, [so] why are we being compared to them?”
Despite these challenges, Price feels that the students have formed a community.
“We all want to just do the best we can,” Price said. “I mean, there’s 800 people. It’s pretty hard to classify everyone together, but it’s been a pretty solid community and we’ve all tried to be as positive as we can be for each other.”