College in Covid: A Freshman’s Experience

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Recall your first day of college. How did it go? How were you feeling? Did you have the anxious jitters? Elated excitement? Did you end up sitting in the wrong classroom and instead of being in your introductory calculus course, you were in an advanced nursing class (not a personal experience by the way…)? 

For students making the jump from high school to college in the 2020-2021 school year, their experience was like none other. 

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has perhaps been the only consistent thing of 2020, was and still is very prominent and dangerous. And while we wait with bated breath for the vaccine to be distributed nationwide, the fear of the virus has lingered in the minds of most. 

Nevertheless, Moravian College held some classes in-person and some online during the 2020 Fall Semester, which lasted until Pennsylvania’s mandated shutdown last November. After this, classes were moved to a strictly online basis. 

While we all wish to protect the pack, it goes without saying that over a year of our college careers, which are supposed to be the “best years of our lives,” is not as fulfilling as we expected it to be. And for our first-year students, they are losing the all-important first year. 

For Lexi Robinson, a psychology major and lacrosse player for Moravian, her first year was “a bit odd.” Before her first semester, Robinson said she was excited to make and hang out with new friends. This was difficult, however, due to the mandatory masking across campus. 

The masks also made it difficult for her to play lacrosse, but she has started to get used to wearing them, so much so that she could be at home and still instinctively put on a mask to go in her backyard. 

Moving from a classroom to a virtual setting via Zoom has been a difficult experience for students and professors alike. Robinson, who considers herself a hands-on learner, said that online classes are more difficult and that she’d prefer class in-person. 

When things return to “normal” and COVID-19 is a thing of the past, Lexi most looks forward to hanging out with her friends and playing sports without the mask. 

“Honestly, thinking about going to college during COVID was a lot more stressful than actually going to college during COVID,” Robinson said. “You get used to the COVID rules and regulations very fast. Yes, it can all be annoying, but these rules are in place to protect the pack!” 

Lea Mazzacano, a nursing major who chose Moravian based on its reputation, said her college career thus far has been out of the ordinary, but she emphasizes seeing the bright side. 

One of the biggest challenges for her, similar to Lexi Robinson’s, was meeting people and forming friendships. Mazzacano has circumvented this by meeting students via social media. 

With regards to online class, Mazzacano struggled with balancing workload and finding time to decompress. She learned that going outside, working in another academic building instead of her dorm, and going to the gym has helped her through this difficult time. 

When COVID-19 is over, Mazzacano looks forward to participating in campus activities, attending in-person classes, and being able to interact with fellow students without the social distancing mandates. 

“Break up your assignments and add balance to your day,” Mazzacano said. “It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with work especially in the midst of a pandemic. Buying a planner and doing assignments in parts has helped tremendously. Also, find what gives you peace of mind.” 

Anthony Sparrow, a business management major who chose Moravian in part due to his family alumni’s recommendation, was also met with a harsh reality when coming to campus during COVID. 

All of my life, the allure of college and gathering with friends, old and new, excited me to finally transition to a college student.” Sparrow said. “Large lecture halls, in and out of other dorm rooms, meeting new people from all around, essentially new experiences. In hindsight, those viewpoints differed greatly to what I actually experienced. Zooms, isolation, being sent home early, and masks never crossed my mind when I thought of college in my junior and senior year of high school.” 

Sparrow said how difficult it was to focus during online classes. He considers himself a visual learner and learns best during an in-person lecture rather than online. Despite how mentally draining the online classes are for him, Sparrow still does the best he can and participates often in class. 

Like other students, Sparrow is most looking forward to social interactions and events when COVID is over. He says that there is always a “sense of quietness” on campus nowadays. 

When asked about how instructors could facilitate the learning process in this unusual time, Sparrow said he’d encourage professors to engage with students as much as possible and try to avoid 70 minutes of lecturing. Sparrow suggested group work and breakout rooms to keep the class’s attention. 

Sparrow’s suggestion for future freshmen coming to Moravian is to stay positive. “There is always something good to take out of the bad, and vice versa,” he said. “Whatever the circumstances may be, it is still college and it is out of your control, but it is your responsibility to keep yourself and others safe, and ensure that the campus stays open for all of us! These are some of the best times of their lives, so making the most out of it is all they can do.”

Attending college during a worldwide pandemic has been a time of uncertainty and fear. 

First-year students could have very easily chosen to wait out the storm and attend college after everything cleared up instead of risking their health and safety. But they did not. 

Instead, they chose to press on and make the best of an unfavorable situation. And that is what we all must keep doing. Even in the face of a global pandemic, keep persisting, stay strong, and stay safe.