CW / Pearl Langley
We’ve all fantasized about our freshman year: football games, independence, parties and 40,000 new friends – give or take a few. We’ve all felt the nerves, the excitement, the dread, but we haven’t all felt the disappointment as much as the high school graduating class of 2020, now the University’s class of 2024.
Arriving on campus in early August, we were met with masks, hand sanitizer and reminders to keep our distance – not the typical welcome goodie bag. We take our dining hall meals to go, attend classes almost exclusively on Zoom and many of us rarely leave our dorms. There are no visitors allowed and common areas are roped off. Definitely not the experience we were dreaming of. While we understand the restrictions, it’s hard not to be disappointed.
The largest struggle we face, far beyond online classes or closed dining halls, is the isolation it creates. There’s a general consensus among the freshmen class that making new friends was what they were looking forward to the most coming to The University of Alabama. They lament how COVID-19 has affected their ability to do so.
“It does make me sad though,” Madison Doss, a freshman from Huntsville, Alabama, said. “I don’t really have any in-person classes and sorority events have been postponed. It has made it really difficult to meet new people and get out on campus.”
It can be particularly hard for those without roommates, as I was originally. To be alone with no friends or family nearby would be incredibly difficult for anyone, but is especially so for freshmen, away from home for the first time.
COVID-19 restrictions have had an impact on productivity as well. For some, the influx of free time that comes with online classes and the lack of fresh air has sapped their motivation to get things done. Procrastination runs rampant which causes frustration over classwork to become extremely apparent. This is a struggle I am currently dealing with. The same monotonous routine day after day can make it increasingly hard to focus. Annika Lee, a freshman from Portland, Oregon cited a lack of productivity outside of the virtual classroom as well.
“It’s definitely hard to get used to remembering to get exercise and take breaks from electronics,” Lee said. “There are a lot of small things that take a bit to get used to.”
For those on the other side of the spectrum, COVID-19 restrictions have actually increased their productivity. With fewer social events and obligations, or, in other words, distractions, as one of the main consequences of the pandemic, some students have put their newfound free time to good use. John Bridges, a freshman from Tuscaloosa, claimed he has been “primarily focused on studying,” with the restrictions in place. In this way, the virus has put more of a focus on student’s education despite obvious drawbacks.
The positive theme continues as students admit restrictions have not been all bad. Besides keeping our campus community safe they have provided us other opportunities we might not have had otherwise. Doss expressed feelings of relief over virtual sorority recruitment.
“Though I missed the [traditional] in person experience, the circumstances have made it very easy to ease into and I still ended up exactly where I am meant to be,” Doss said. “It was nice to stay [in] the air conditioning too.”
It has also allowed us to foster closer bonds with our roommates. Bridges claims it is easier to talk to and get to know his roommates, “since [they] are in the same situation.” It may not be the thousands of friends you were hoping for but as the ambiguous ‘they’ always say, quality over quantity.
Our shared experiences bring us closer together as a generation and make us unique as a class.
“It’s unlike anyone’s freshman experience before,” Doss said. “[We] will forever be remembered this way.”
Despite a stark contrast between expectations and reality, freshmen are still able to enjoy their first year here at the University. We still appreciate the beauty and opportunity around us and understand the restrictions placed upon our experience. Without them we might not speak to our roommates more than in passing, we might not appreciate the ability to eat a simple meal with friends, we might not be on campus at all. In the end, this isn’t the year we wanted, it isn’t even the year we expected, but it is a year at the Capstone and we couldn’t be happier to be here.