I.V. Unmasked: Community Reunites for the New School Year

Photo courtesy of Sammy Muñoz

Anne Le

AS Beat Reporter

Since the start of the new academic year on Sept. 22, the Isla Vista (I.V.) community seems to have finally returned to a sense of normalcy after two years marred by the pandemic. With the school year starting and COVID-19 cases on the decline, COVID-19 restrictions have become more lenient. While masks are still strongly recommended, UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) announced that the mask mandate has been lifted and that vaccinated individuals no longer need to socially distance themselves from one another.

I.V. life appears to be a lot livelier and more crowded. As of week zero, parties and social events filled the streets of I.V. and kicked off the start of the new school year. Many students who reside in I.V. shared their thoughts and experiences living in I.V. last year compared to the start of this year.

According to Felix Lo, a third-year mechanical engineering major, I.V. parties seem to be emerging more compared to last year because of the lack of restrictions. They mention walking around I.V. and seeing parties a lot more often.

Nancy Nguyen, a third-year sociology major, experienced both university housing as well as I.V. housing. Her thoughts on the COVID-19 restrictions and how it has impacted her living arrangements have not changed because she mentioned that “[she] didn’t really have to bump into other people besides [her] housemates.” 

This attitude about restrictions and her living arrangements was also true when everyone had to wear masks. However, the start of the new quarter without a mask mandate brought up some concerns for her. 

Nancy shares, “A lot of people don’t wear masks. I’m also scared that COVID-19 cases will rise because of this.” Although it seems COVID is dying down, it is a concern that some people still carry. 

I.V. living seems to be back to some normalcy with the mask mandate being lifted. Haley Zheng, a third-year financial mathematics and statistics major, mentioned that living in I.V. allowed her to not feel restricted, to not feel the need to wear a mask all the time. The restrictions have been lenient, but that did not really change the fact that in the university housing it is much more heavily insistent that students wear a mask. In I.V., many do not feel the need to wear one since no one is there to tell them to wear one. 

The start of the school year has also brought up some concerns for the students as they begin to attend classes on campus. 

Lo expressed some concerns about lifting the mask mandate. They mention that people are much more “relaxed” about wearing masks and that they wear their masks consistently even though it is not necessarily required. They also mention that “the restrictions weren’t really annoying, but not the most convenient and I felt safer in a way with the restrictions.” 

Compared to last year, Lo does think that there is a change but is still cautious about their surroundings. They are a little less cautious when it comes to wearing a mask but still choose to wear one when necessary.

Students have expressed their thoughts about the return of I.V. and it has been a wave of emotions. We will only see from here where COVID-19 takes us. Until next time for more updates on I.V.