We should embrace new college experience created by COVID-19

by Sierra Stallworth , Contributor

Going back to school brings out a lot of emotions.

For incoming freshmen, worries about being on your own for the first time and making new friends emerges. For sophomores, who faced their first year of college online, are also stepping onto a campus they’ve probably never visited before — embarking on their first in-person college experience.

While we all know both freshmen and sophomores will be going through a “real” freshman experience for the first time, so many upperclassmen will also be having a similar feeling of being a freshman again.

In March 2020, I and many of my peers quickly evacuated campus with the threat of COVID-19 on our minds. We packed our bags and went home with no idea of when we could return. Despite the few who were able to return in the fall of 2020, most of us left campus as underclassmen and will return as upperclassmen.

When most people think of freshman year, freshly-turned 18-year-olds who are embarking on a new path come to mind. Freshmen are learning how to live on their own, how to take classes as college students and how to find their calling in life.  It’s the ideal time to make mistakes because no one expects 18-year-olds to get it right on the first try. 

Freshman year is a transitional period for our youth and a pivotal experience in their life but due to the pandemic, the freshman experience was abruptly halted for the class of 2023. They went from “newbies” who were just starting to find their own way and get accustomed to campus to juniors who are supposed to have it all together. 

Dorm life quickly changed to adulthood for many upperclassmen as they began living on their own in apartments off campus. No one expects them to be excited by the events on campus or by the first football game because they were supposed to have already experienced all of their “firsts,” but unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Many students never got to experience what it felt like to finish a full year of classes in person. We never got to feel the fresh air and the warm sand of springy San Diego or to feel how it is to say goodbye to campus in May with the promise of returning in the fall. 

Although the university tried to keep us on track with online instruction, we have bypassed many once-in-a-lifetime college experiences and missed key learning benchmarks. 

Online classes are tough and many students have suffered trying to stay on top of their work. While some have taken advantage of online instruction, others have been negatively affected. The skill level and success that is associated with upperclassmen might not be up to par with what our professors want from us. 

COVID-19 has brought immense changes to the lives of students but with in-person classes beginning in the fall, many students are making an effort to get the college experience COVID-19 took away. 

An “after-pandemic” college experience might not be the dream many students dreamt of but it is a chance to return to a somewhat normal college environment. 

Although upperclassmen have to start all over again, I believe this “freshman feeling” will help us never take school for granted again, prompting us to go to those sporting events even if the teams have bad track records or to that club meeting we’re not sure we would like. Embrace doing things for the first time even if we don’t have the title of “freshman.” 

We are all embarking on a new adventure that can be scary and sometimes troublesome, but instead of straying away from these fears, embrace them and dive into growth for the new semester.

Sierra Stallworth is a junior studying journalism.