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The New Freshman Experience: Navigating COVID Isolation as New Students

Leaving the comfort of home to come to college and pursue a future is not an easy feat. For the freshman class of 2020-21, this task was not made any easier by the COVID-19 pandemic that still rages within the United States.

 

Because of the coronavirus, college freshmen were deprived of a normal college experience. Freshmen students who were living on campus were unable to attend sporting events, meet new people in conventional ways, or leave their dorm rooms without face masks due to the COVID-19 protocols put in place by Colorado State University. 

 

A sign on the plexiglass barrier at the front desk of Parmelee Hall asks, "Have you picked up your sanitizing wipes?"
A sign on the plexiglass barrier at the front desk of Parmelee Hall asks, “Have you picked up your sanitizing wipes?” Posters reminding students of COVID health precautions cover the campus surfaces. (Photo by Noel Black)

Additionally, clubs and sports looked much different this year than they have in years prior. Clubs met remotely on Zoom calls if they even met at all. Attending sports games was prohibited. These restrictions made it increasingly difficult for freshmen to get involved like they would have before. 

 

Senti Werden, a freshman living in Corbett Hall, felt that without having access to as many activities on campus, this first year of college was not what she expected. Werden states that she feels that having activities available is vital to a freshman experience. Activities can help students meet more people and make important memories. 

 

The Rocky Mountain Showdown would’ve been really fun and all the other sports games… I feel like that’s a great way to get involved your freshman year,” Werden says. “It’s hard not having all of that this year.”

 

Of course, freshmen still did their best to stay involved despite the COVID protocols and procedures. Werden joined a sorority and had also gotten involved with a youth group on campus. Immersing herself in these active student communities helped Werden meet new people and thrive on campus. 

 

“It’s alright because I value the friendships I do have, but if it was different, I do believe I would’ve had more friends.” — Trent Hanney, CSU first-year student

 

Meeting new people was not easy for every freshman on campus, though. Because of COVID, making new friends was much more challenging. Masks made people appear unapproachable, and sitting so far away from classmates made it awkward to reach out. Yet, making friends during the freshmen year of college is so important. 

 

The friends made during freshman year help students adapt to college life and feel more comfortable as they move away from their families to live in a new environment. Without social interaction, being new to campus seemed lonelier than it should. 

 

Like many other freshmen, Jack Tuller had not met as many people as he was hoping. Tuller made several friends since moving to campus, but he felt like he was unable to branch out. To keep the possibility of transmitting COVID low, Tuller and his friends had to keep their friend group small.

 

“There’s a level of trust,” Tuller says in reference to keeping his circle tight-knit. “It’s just a safety aspect.”

 

Jack Tuller works in a study room at Parmalee Hall. In order to use the rooms, reservations need to be made online. (Photo by Noel Black)

 

Trent Hanney, a freshman living in the Academic Village, also hadn’t met many people. Crediting the situation the campus was in due to the virus, Hanney feels that he didn’t have the opportunity to make new friends and build the relationships he normally would. 

 

“It’s alright because I value the friendships I do have, but if it was different, I do believe I would’ve had more friends,” Hanney says.  

 

Tuller and Hanney both feel that the university did a great job of monitoring symptoms among students and staff and being responsible about the pandemic. Thanks to the measures CSU took; like wastewater testing, weekly COVID screenings, and quarantining infected individuals; students were still able to live on campus. Of course, the freshmen did not experience the dorms as they would’ve been. 

 

Respecting the rules of the dorms made the unfavorable experience of living in such a small space with other individuals even harder. With such little space, it was difficult to stay COVID safe. Because there is so little room, entire dorms were locked-down when high levels of COVID were detected in wastewater testing. In September, Braiden and Summit halls were both quarantined toward the end of the month.

 

Additionally, some of the facilities within the dorms were not accessible. Sofia Torres, a resident of Summit Hall, shared that with the changes affecting the dormitories, she felt like she was missing out.

 

“It’s difficult to know people because everyone is scared to get COVID,” Torres says. “We can’t use the pool or ping pong tables, some rooms are closed… so it’s not like we are getting the whole experience.”

Sofia Torres eats her lunch in the dining area at Ram’s Horn. Students can eat in the dining halls, but seating is limited and not always available. (Photo by Noel Black)

 

Dining hall workers stand behind the snack counter at Ram's Horn in Academic Village
Dining hall workers stand behind the snack counter at Ram’s Horn in Academic Village. Unlike the buffet style dining menus of pre-COVID, the 2020-2021 dining halls served limited set meals. Customers were asked to “please point” to what fruit or pastry they would like. (Photo by Noel Black)

The dining halls in the dorms were also affected by COVID protocols. The menus were much different than they had been in the past. The students only had a few options to choose from, and the menu changed sporadically. There could have been new food items every day, or the menu could not change for a week. Students who came to eat at the dining centers were also only allowed to enter one side and exit out the other and had limited seating options to choose from. Many students ended up taking their meals back to their rooms. 

 

Missing out on a college freshmen experience is nothing this class can’t handle, though. Having missed out on the latter half of their senior year in high school, this group of students is incredibly resilient and has learned to make the best out of unfavorable circumstances.

 

“It’s obviously not the best, but it’s what we have,” Hanney says. “At least I’m getting to go to college.”

CategoriesHappenings