I think it is safe to say that this semester sucks. The University thought we could have a semi-normal semester and with little to no precautions against the pandemic. Well, to the surprise of nobody, students and staff are getting infected left and right, and COVID-19 clusters are appearing everywhere, like K-pop stans on a racist Twitter hashtag.
While the University is blaming students and Greek life for their incompetence and not issuing apologies, we should instead focus on helping students cope with sudden changes in the semester. If there is a group of students who need help the most, it’s the freshmen. Not only did they lose their senior year of high school, but they also lost their first year of college.
My freshman year was important to me because I was able to make friends, join clubs and establish connections for networking. Now that housing has kicked out everyone, most freshmen have been robbed of the college experience, including making new friends, gaining new skills and establishing network connections for future jobs and internships.
Although I have yet to figure out how to handle my life, I am a third-year, so here is some advice on what freshmen can do to salvage what is left of this academic year and their college experience.
The first thing I would recommend is to join some clubs. To abide by university guidelines, most clubs have been moved online. However, this shouldn’t dissuade you from joining them because you get to meet new people, learn some new skills you probably wouldn’t get from your courses and it looks good on resumes and graduate school applications.
For example, I am a member of both the English Club and the Spanish Club. In English Club, you can submit any of your creative works or offer critiques on other people’s stories and poems. In the Spanish Club, we improve our Spanish speaking and writing skills while also learning about other cultures. More often than not, club advisors are more than happy to talk to you, get you involved and send their fair share of group chat and Zoom links.
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The second thing I recommend is talking to the people in the Career Development Center. If you are unsure about where you want to major, they can guide you in the right direction. In addition, your counselors can help you look for jobs and internships. While some might say it is too early to look for internships, they can help you build a work portfolio and establish connections, making it easier for when you apply in the future.
The last bit of advice I would offer is to try to connect with students outside of your class. It might be hard for some people to make friends in an online environment, but it is not impossible. For example, in my Spanish class, someone made a GroupMe for everyone so we could study together, send memes or complain about random things.
Some of our classes even force us into breakout rooms on Zoom. While it might be uncomfortable and awkward at first, take the time to meet your fellow classmates. For example, I was in a breakout room for my sociology class, and we just started to complain about famous conservative pundits because I make friends through general shared distaste of people and things. It may not be the ideal way to meet new people, but we all could make some friends, especially during these trying times.
I am sure I left out some other advice that freshmen could use, but that is what I have to offer. While most of us are rightfully complaining about the University’s response to the pandemic and keeping people safe, we also need to support one another, especially those new to college life.