Freshmen grapple with unconventional first year of college

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The first year of college is usually full of new friends, clubs, fun events and independent living, but this year — thanks to a pandemic — it’s not all it is chalked up to be, some students say.

“The biggest difference between what I expected, and reality is probably classes being held mostly online.” Aenya Richards, freshman in environmental design, said. “I’ve always heard of and seen huge lecture classes and it’s something I’ve looked forward to and wanted to experience. It’s also been harder to meet new people since we can’t gather in large groups.”

For Macy Palmer, freshman in animal sciences and industry, taking precautions to stay safe and healthy has been important. But it means missing out on the new and fun things she thought she would experience in college.

“I do fear getting COVID while being on campus,” Palmer said. “I don’t believe that if I got COVID it would have been my fault, but there are others who could spread it regardless of everyone else’s efforts, and that’s just the reality of the situation. I really like being here and if we were to suddenly be sent home, I would feel iffy about coming back.”

Not only has the pandemic affected the class of 2024’s freshman year of college, but for some, it also diminished the end of their senior year of high school. Memories with friends, spring sports, prom dresses and graduation celebrations were missed.

“I never got a graduation, a real last day, a senior trip or many other things,” Richards said “It was pretty hard, but it definitely taught me not to take things for granted, and I think that’s a lesson that I’ll take with me throughout the rest of my life.”

Taking to his artistic side to grapple with COVID-19, Travis Leaton, freshman in electrical engineering, uses his hands to bring his emotions to life.

“During high school, I was able to cope with things through ceramics,” Leaton said. “It was a way to just clear my mind and forget about everything except what was on my mind. Hopefully next semester, I can enroll in a ceramics class and start my art minor.”

With no in-person events and not knowing the way around convivial spots on campus or in Manhattan, Palmer said she’s trying to avoid getting stuck inside a dorm room. Instead, she tries to find ways to spend time outdoors while social distancing.

“My idea of coping with COVID is by introducing myself to new hobbies,” Palmer said. “Even though I would’ve liked to explore Manhattan, to go out and do things, I made myself forget about those things so that I didn’t risk myself or others. Instead, I do things that distance myself from others. For example, I recently ordered some roller skates and have been practicing.”

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