“Empty Classroom” by Max Klingensmith is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

 

 

If everything were normal, I would be stressing over what I forgot to bring to my dorm and hoping my roommate does not end up on a “My College Roommate Horror Story” Buzzfeed video. I never thought I would ever say this, but I miss worrying about that. If someone told me last year that I would be sitting on my couch at home listening to lectures on Zoom and only communicating with other students through there and Snapchat, I might have cried.

Fortunately, everyone in the WCU class of 2024 has gone through very similar experiences that include, but are not limited to, the cancelation of prom and high school graduation, a very lonely summer full of political turmoil and now an isolating first semester at college.

Even if you don’t relate to any of these things because your high school had some form of graduation or you are one of the select few students allowed back on campus, there are still many layers to these “unprecedented times” that come with a global pandemic as a college freshman.

Since most of our classes are muted in Zoom rooms during the weekdays, I think it is important to address the mental toll that these events, specifically online classes, take on us. To find out, I surveyed around 60 freshmen in two days and the results were concerning.

Over 60% of freshmen polled said that their mental health worsened in some way since the start of quarantine or online school. However, a few freshmen said that the sudden change in schedule from quarantine to having busy classes motivated them. Many others say they continue to have less and less motivation as quarantine and lack of communication drags on.

 For me personally, the transition from not having a concrete schedule to constant Zoom calls and a load of online work has only reminded me of what I am missing out on socially. Many of my high school friends have gone to college in person, and I find myself feeling jealous and sad when I see their social media stories full of new friends and decorated dorm rooms.

After the first day of Zoom class, I realized that I had to speak up and find new friends myself. So, I talked and connected with my Orientation Leaders. I took advantage of the Virtual Fair and joined The Quad where I have virtually met some smart, intimidating, accomplished and kind people. I even stayed behind in my required FYE self-care Zoom and chatted with the students hosting it, even making plans to talk again. After a click on the wrong Zoom link (sorry, Professor Rademaekers), half of my English class vented about the stresses of online class and created a group chat.

 

Getting Involved

However, I know that for many students, going out of the way to talk to others is not always easy, but it can be as simple as getting involved. If you want to look better in the eyes of future employers and make great connections and friendships, join one of West Chester’s 280+ clubs. It is not too late to join, and many clubs are specifically looking for new students. Find a complete list of clubs and organizations here.

If you are feeling stressed about a class’s workload, create a weekly study group Zoom session to make friends while also improving your learning.

If you are struggling with balancing schoolwork and find that you procrastinate on your assignments, speak to a success coach by creating an account on MyWCUOnline and then register to make an appointment.

And most importantly, if you find yourself struggling with motivation or stress, reach out to the counseling center.

        

 We Asked Freshmen…

How does starting college online make you feel?

  • It’s upsetting since it isn’t the experience we expected or wanted, but I understand it’s the only way to keep us safe.”
  • Starting [college] online makes me feel disconnected from everything.”
  • I’m super upset I can’t get the overall college experience.”
  • “I feel like I am missing out on making friends because all my high school friends have all moved into college.”
  • I’m getting a bit sick of Zoom.”
  • It makes me feel really disconnected. I don’t know any of my classmates and it’s hard to connect with them when you only see each other on Zoom calls.”

How have you stayed connected with friends?

  • FaceTime, since all my friends are at college and I’m the only one home.”
  • I haven’t had a chance to meet any yet.”
  • Most of my friends went off to college. Being at home has been hard to get in touch with other WCU freshmen when we are supposed to be staying home and being safe.”
  • A lot of people just follow you if you have  ‘WCU’  in your bio on social media. But other than that, it’s been really difficult making friends via Zoom.”

 

How did you cope with the cancellation of senior year and now our first semester of college?

  • By trying to stay positive and think about my future, my goals and ambitions.”
  • I started reading and working out more. This has really helped me to stay focused and grounded.”
  • I learned to accept it for what it is. It’s not the ideal situation, but it’s best for the survival and well-being of others.
  • Realized that you can’t dwell on things you can’t change.”
  • Quite honestly, there isn’t [any] coping to be done. There’s only accepting. There’s nothing we can do; we don’t get a say. Therefore, all that’s left to do is just keep moving forward in hopes that this won’t be forever.”

 

Emma Hogan is a first-year English Writings major. EH954390@wcupa.edu

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