Last Year’s Forum Editors on COVID-19’s Impact on their Freshman Years of College

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Olivia Baker, Lily Campbell, Stephanie Racker, and Margo Williams

Olivia 

Well, these are bizarre times, to say the least…but I’m in awe of how my school’s administration handled our retreat. The transition to online classes, for instance, took place over two days, and it was a clean one (for the most part). But I’m even more in awe of how my school’s community came together to help one another. Our president revised the time that students had to leave the dorms two days prior to the deadline, and, in extraordinary cases, offered some to stay because returning home would be even riskier for them than staying on campus. A wave of student volunteers that lived in the area selflessly risked their health and came back to the dorms to help pack up their friends (or friends of friend’s, or of friends of friends of friend’s) stuff. It made my heart warmer than it has been in months, and I can say with certainty that the same goes for my classmates. We’re bummed, of course, but there seems to be a collective acknowledgment that the coming years will compensate for our lost time together.

As for how it has affected me personally, I’m still navigating the loss of my independence…as always, though, keeping perspective is a priority for me. I’m incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by loving family members, to have enough necessities to last me a lifetime. On a global scale, I’m reminded of my friends who live outside the US, like those in Rwanda, who have compromised immune systems yet still found the time, in all this madness, to reach out and ensure that I was safe. 

I’m hopeful for the outcome of this crisis, actually. No doubt, we have wild amounts of work to do to rebuild what crumbled during this time, and I look forward to doing my part in that process. But what I’m most looking forward to is what I hope to be an unparalleled appreciation for life and things we used to take for granted. Before that can be the case, though, we got to keep each other safe. And if that means forgoing the second half of my freshman second semester, then so be it.

Margo 

This experience has been eye-opening in that it’s taking place during a very formative few years of our lives. My family dinners (one of the things I missed most at school) have been filled with conversation about what economic and social repercussions the Coronavirus is having, and will have, throughout the country. I always had a hunch my parents were smart, but dang, they know a lot more than I expected about things I have never heard of. Why are landlords willing to renew shorter leases now? Insurance rates are impacted by what factors? 

Talking about the virus triggers stress for me, no doubt. My dad puts CNN on more often than I’d like him to. Governor Cuomo and Chris Cuomo feel like sixth and seventh members of my family, their voices are so inescapable. But learning about what’s going on feels different from hearing about what’s going on, if that makes sense. 

I think drawing as much of a learning opportunity out of this as possible has been vital for my avoidance of falling into a pit of despair. I miss eating dinner with my friends at 5:30pm. I miss their unique senses of humor and hilarious dancing. I miss talking to other people who don’t know what they want their life to look like yet. And I miss eating pizza at 1am (due to having had dinner at 5:30). 

But what’s been so surprising about this period of time for me is that I’m growing up in ways I didn’t expect to. I thought the growing up at home part of my life was over. Apparently not. 

Lily

For me, the most frustrating thing that COVID has ‘taken’ from me is my sense of independence that flourished all throughout my second semester at college. First semester was fun but I was still getting a handle on everything; by second semester, I finally felt in control of my life and my year. Being home has completely wiped that away. As someone who openly struggles with mental health issues, being home has not only made them worse, but now it’s affecting my studies and motivation, which is the most frustrating thing of all. In college I was excited to attend class and had a purpose, a reason to do my work. At home, I feel despondent and removed from all of that purpose. 

However, I continue to remind myself to look at what this pandemic does not mean for me: I am privileged enough to have high-speed internet, a family that is healthy, and do not have to work upon returning to home, unlike some of my classmates whose quarantine worries are not just about what they’re missing out on from school or what mundane activity they’re going to do that day, but instead, how they’re going to get food on the table, get their work done without a laptop, or attend classes while being 11 hours ahead of everyone else.

So while us college students may be lacking motivation this quarantine and wishing we were elsewhere, many of us are going to be just fine after this is over; I have learned many new skills and hobbies over quarantine (such as how to make gluten free bagels) but the most important skill I have honed is the ability to look at the negatives in my life in perspective to others who may be struggling with much more than just boredom during this quarantine. 

Stephanie

As difficult as it was initially hearing that I wouldn’t be able to return for spring term at Dartmouth, I’ve learned that there’s no point in dwelling over situations that are out of our control. I could spend the rest of spring term sitting and wishing I were able to walk across campus and see familiar faces and hang out with friends every weekend, but all that would be doing for me is making me feel upset. So, I simply spent this time with my family and just being happy to be at home with them because I think people forget that when you leave for college that’s sort of the last time you’ll get to spend months on end with your family. After college, you go to graduate school or into the workforce and you never really get to just sit with your parents again the same way you did in high school.