Services, programming available to students staying on campus over holiday break

York University in the Winter. Keele campus scene shows a building and pine boughs.

Did you know that about 350 students will be spending some or all of the holidays in residence at York University?

To say that 2020 has been a unique and challenging year is a considerable understatement. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to find new and innovative ways to live and progress while maintaining the health and safety of both ourselves and those around us. For so many, this has meant staying at home and physical distancing. For the majority of students, the foremost challenge has been studying remotely from home, whether home be just down the road in Thornhill or on the other side of the world in Mumbai, India. Despite all these changes, York continues to house and support students living in our undergraduate residences with additional health and safety measures in place.

A photo of a zoom meeting with the don team
The don team in Pond Residence meets virtually to socialize during their don training

“I’m from Bangladesh and I’ve been living in Vanier Residence since 2017,” says student Humayra Safa. “While the experience has been different from previous years, it has been an overwhelmingly positive one. The dons, residence life education assistants (RLEA) and porters have been amazing. They’ve worked really hard to promote and maintain safety measures, and to build a welcoming community for those of us living here. There is always an educational or social activity planned, or someone checking in to ensure that we are coping well. I’m super grateful for all the caring effort that has gone into making this such a comfortable home away from home during such a trying time.”

As COVID-19 case numbers rise in many parts of the world including here in Canada, travel is often discouraged or restricted. As a result, many residents will be staying on campus over the holidays. Housing & Conference Services has been accepting requests and will be accommodating students wishing to stay in residence from Wednesday, Dec. 23,  4:30 p.m. to Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021, 12 p.m. Security, on-call maintenance, emergency repairs, and other limited services will be available. The Stong Dining Hall will be open. The usual fee to stay is being waived, and Residence Life staff will continue to be on-site to support and offer activities for residents to connect virtually. In addition, Food Services and Residence Life are working together to have holiday dinners delivered to students. Guests are not permitted in residences.

The Bethune Don team get together for some socially distanced team socials during Don training
The Bethune don team get together for some socially distanced team socials during don training

“We completely recognize that the holiday period is usually a time to get away from school, to relax and reunite with family and friends. But we also realize we are living in unprecedented times and the holidays are just going to look a little different this year,” says Residence Life Don, Jonathan Raspanti. “It’s going to be extra important that those of us who are remaining in residence feel a strong sense of community and have things to do and people to talk to. This is a way that I know I can help to make a positive difference, and to be honest it’s been very satisfying to work on the events and activities we have planned for our community.”

“We are going to have events on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the holidays. Of course, events will be virtual so everyone stays safe and we can engage as many people as possible. Some examples include paint and games nights,” says Residence Life Education Assistant, Suraj Anand.

In addition to the RLEA events planned during the week, residence dons will be coordinating events for the buildings and areas they are overseeing.

“We are going to make this an extra special holiday for everyone. We have a variety of events planned, from trivia, to yoga and meditation,” said Raspanti.

Vanier Dons are putting together goodie bags for residents to welcome them to the building
Vanier dons are putting together goodie bags for residents to welcome them to the building

Daryl Nauman, director, Residence Life added, “I’m really proud of the efforts and creativity of our staff and student leaders in residence as they rise to these unique challenges this year. I feel confident that this is going to be a special holiday season for those that get involved in Residence Life at York. And, given the unprecedented times we are in, we appreciate the additional support and care offered to residents by staff in the Office of Student Community Relations (OSCR) over the break.”

In addition to these services and events, students can also access York International’s virtual events throughout the holidays.

York community members interested in getting a multimedia behind-the-scenes look at life in residence, and engaging with some of the Residence Life staff and students over the holidays, can do so by following @StudentLifeYU on Instagram. Residence Life dons will be taking over the channel starting Dec. 23 and posting Instagram stories. All are invited to watch, say hi, or even send them some holiday cheer.