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Friday, May 14, 2021

Opinion

Freshmen didn’t get the ideal first year


Incoming freshmen at UH saw their expectations for their first year of college swept away as COVID-19 forced most interactions to be strictly online. | Juana Garcia/ The Cougar

Incoming freshmen at UH saw their expectations for their first year of college swept away as COVID-19 forced most interactions to be strictly online. | Juana Garcia/ The Cougar

Some goodbyes can be hard, but others, like one being said to the 2020-2021 school year, can be quite easy. Especially for the current freshmen who were forced to make a huge life transition during a pandemic.

As students tackle midterms and take on the final stretch of what feels like a marathon no one trained for, the words “goodbye,” “so long” and “farewell” have never tasted any sweeter than they do now. 

It’s no secret that this school year has been one like no other. For many, this year was uncomfortable, disappointing and even agonizing.

Much like getting a root canal, this year has been an experience. For the class of 2024, it’s not exactly the freshman college experience they had been hoping for. 

Long distance relationships are often awkward, difficult, and straining, and it turns out that being in a long-distance relationship with your college feels the same way.

Freshman psychology major Victoria Loreant was one of the many students whose classes got moved completely online, forcing her to remain at home a year longer than she had expected. 

While the asynchronous style coursework has been easier for Loreant to manage, the side effect of such a disconnected learning style is that it has made it “difficult for (her) to stay engaged with the information and retain what (she’s) learned.”

On the other hand, students in synchronous online classes are also dealing with feelings of lost connection, even when the Wi-Fi is strong. 

Simone Green, a liberal studies major, says that even in her synchronous classes on Zoom, she finds it hard to have great seminar conversations because of the lack of relationship she has with her classmates.

“It’s hard to get to know your classmates because the only time you see them is allotted to instruction,” Green said.

This sense of difficulty in having online conversations is seconded by freshman Andrew Raymond.

“For a lot of people who tend to be more self-conscious, speaking up on Zoom is hard because you can see yourself as you’re talking,” Raymond said.

If there’s anything the class of 2024 has learned about building long-distance relationships, it’s that keeping up with meeting times can be hard.

While trying to stay involved with the University through clubs and organizations, students who are forced to stay home because of COVID-19 find that the distance element really tends to get in the way. 

Green, a member of the Black Student Union, says that she loves the organization and is frustrated that she can’t attend the in-person meetings and get togethers, but hopes to hop right into the full swing of things in the fall. 

So yes, it’s no secret that classroom dynamics and study habits have changed, but have the changes brought by this school year transcended the classroom?

While it’s expected that the first year of college brings about a change in one’s individuality, most current freshmen believe that they’ve changed more this year than they would have in a first year without COVID-19.

In fact, Raymond states that the looser structure of his freshman year caused him to mature a lot faster and acquire a real sense of self-discipline as it becomes easier to get distracted when behind a screen. 

Along with self-discipline, on-campus freshmen have mastered the ability to adapt to campus as the campus itself is adapting to COVID-19 restrictions — making the class of 2024 the number one contender in an “Inception”-type situation. 

Meanwhile, students that are completely online and living at home notice a change in themselves as well, despite being in the same environment.

Leading up to her high school graduation, Loreant says that she had felt hopeful about attending college during the pandemic, but she now feels “stalled” during a time she thought was going to be momentous and exciting.

As for Green, where she used to feel relatively comfortable in social situations, she now feels apprehensive.

Not only can these changes alter the way a person views society and their environment, but they can often cause changes in the way they view themselves and their role within society.

The class of 2024 looks forward to returning to some normalcy in the coming fall semester with many students heading for campus for a second shot at a first year.

Do not be deceived, the freshmen are not defeated, nor are they left weakened by the challenges of the past year.

They are a little weary, but it’s nothing a nap won’t fix. Think of it this way, the class of 2024 are the Cougars 2.0, they are gritty, experienced and ready to achieve.

Angela Jardina is an English creative writing freshman who can be reached at [email protected]

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