Starting college is a time when new connections and friendships are forged. For many freshmen, it’s also their first time living alone and navigating the world independently. But this fall semester looks a bit different for college freshmen in Wisconsin and throughout the country.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many students met their professors and advisors for the first time over video. Others started class in person, later switching to virtual learning. Some dormitories were quarantined, making getting to know new people a bit challenging.
“I underestimated how bad things could be, so I expected that there’d be some online, some in-person components, but that the college experience would be relatively similar,” says Alexander Creighton, a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
For Creighton, not only have online classes been more difficult but so has finding communities that he's excited to join. He hoped to join the running club. But due to COVID-19 restrictions, he can't go on group runs without a mask — something that greatly diminishes his enjoyment of running.
That doesn’t mean Creighton's first year of college has been ruined. He is still optimistic about the good he's been able to find.
“Since I do have some online connections with people, I am able to build a community that I enjoy being a part of. As well as the learning opportunity of being not entirely on my own but away from my family to figure out what I need to, sort of living without them,” he says.
It’s strange enough to have to change your expectations for college when you’ve never experienced it before. But it’s also an adjustment when you’re an involved student who knows what it means to be part of campus life.
Kirat Mokha is an upperclassman at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Before the pandemic, his band was planning live shows at the school, he was helping plan events on campus, he was working with the student government to make changes at the school — and he was excited.
“All of that is not happening anymore. But honestly, this is sort of exposing me to a different side of the world because, for example, with live concerts, we couldn’t do that, but we ended up doing a virtual concert,” says Mokha.
He does worry about the virtual education he is receiving and what it means for his prospects after college. But he says having to manage so many more things by himself has taught him new time management and work skills.
“So, in a sense it is frustrating, but it is also making me a strong and a very well-rounded individual,” he says.