HALIFAX -- The end of August would usually see thousands of students returning to Dalhousie University's campus for the fall semester, but welcome-back week looks a lot different this year.

"It's not the same honestly, it's not exciting really," Dalhousie student Joachim Mwebembezi.

Dalhousie vice-provost student affairs Ivan Joseph says the university would normally have about 3,500 students living on campus, but that number down to just about 700 this fall.

University students arriving from outside of the Atlantic bubble won't be out and about, as they are required to self-isolate for 14 days.

"I decided to stay off campus but do it safe," Mwebembezi said. "I isolated, just quarantine and be alone, try your best to be away from public places."

Dalhousie's isolation residence opened over the weekend for the first wave of students who are required to complete a 14-day self-isolation period and undergo three COVID-19 tests

"We have an isolation building, a quarantine residence, and some of our residences are completely offline and will only be used in the event that someone gets ill or arrives to campus late," Joseph said.

While most Dalhousie courses are online, there will be some in-person labs.

Joseph says it is important to still give students the option to return to campus lifestyle.

"We have lots of students from around the world that don't have access to technology, who aren't in safe places, who couldn't continue with their academic advances from a far," Joseph said.

Down the street, Saint Mary's University is expecting to have about 300 students in residence this fall, down from more than 1,000.

But if students arrive before Sept. 5, they'll have to find their own place to quarantine.

"Residence opens on the 5th, and so we've advised them we can help them self-isolate as of the 5th, and if they do that we can provide meals and resources to support them through that process beginning on the 5th. Most students are fine with that because, of course, our classes are online," said Matt Robinson, Saint Mary's University director of housing and conference services.

But the association representing Saint Mary's students says there are still unanswered questions.

"There's a lot up in the air about what students can actually expect, about safely coming back into residence and testing, and financing is a huge question right now," said Samantha Graham, the vice-president of the Saint Mary's University Student Association. "So, there's a lot of concerns for students right now."