Indiana Daily Student

IU freshmen reflect on their first semester in college during the COVID-19 pandemic

<p>Students line up for their off-campus housing COVID-19 tests Aug. 18 in the IU Tennis Center. All students living in off-campus housing are required to schedule a COVID-19 test by Aug. 20.</p>

Students line up for their off-campus housing COVID-19 tests Aug. 18 in the IU Tennis Center. All students living in off-campus housing are required to schedule a COVID-19 test by Aug. 20.

The COVID-19 pandemic swiftly rearranged society and much like everything else, the 2020-21 school year has also been affected. People have been uprooted from school and work and everyone has had to adapt to the virtual world. When schools all over America shut down in March, people hoped the following school year could be salvaged.

Along with schools across the nation, and the world, IU created new rules and systems due to the pandemic. This school year is different for everyone, but it has had a impact on the freshmen class.

For freshman Maddie Tyler, her first year at IU was not typical. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a foot injury, the ballet major decided to attend her first college semester from her home in New York as opposed to on campus.

Zoom classes have been a struggle for many, but being a ballet major over Zoom presented some unique challenges. Dancers had to find their own spaces to dance. Along with this, limited space means limited movement.

While this problem of limited movement and keeping one’s body in the camera frame has been a challenge for both dancers and instructors, Tyler did look on the bright side, saying this made dancers hold themselves more accountable.

Freshmen have also missed out on what it means to be part of the Hoosier community.

“Joining as a freshman has been interesting because we haven't gotten a full chance to feel what the actual ballet community is like because we’re joining in such an odd period of time,” Tyler said. “I have heard from the upperclassmen that it’s usually a very warm and welcoming community, and everyone is very friendly and it’s very close knit.”

Freshmen in dorms got a little more community than those who stayed home. IU freshman Emily Garcia said her dorm community was the best thing about this semester. 

“I think the best thing is it forced a few of us on our floor to actually talk and we all became really good friends,” Garcia said. “I feel like if it wasn’t for COVID, we’d always be like go, go, go, and we wouldn’t get to talk to each other that much.”

Despite this, freshmen said they miss the sense of community overall, like being able to meet people in classes and around the campus. 

“I expected to have more interaction with people,” Garcia said. “I definitely expected to find a friend group but it was a lot harder with COVID and I only made friends with people on my floor. It was hard to interact with people that were not on my floor.” 

Salai Aung, a freshman in informatics, said he feels the same way as Garcia. 

“I wanted to really experience that college life that everyone is so excited about. And I feel like I didn’t really get that experience,” Aung said.

Aung’s plans to complete the next semester off campus in Indianapolis.

“Next semester might be better but because it’s all online classes I’ve decided to stay home. I canceled my housing contract because I feel like there's no different than staying on campus than staying at home.” Aung said.

For a lot of freshmen, spending any time on campus in Bloomington is impossible. For freshman Nathan Boynick, who lives in Germany, the divide is greater than most.

“Well, you definitely do feel separated because generally I’m awake when you guys are still asleep in the morning, and the moment you guys get up in the afternoon for school I go to bed so there’s definitely a lot of separation there,” Boynick said

The pandemic has also made it harder for students to connect with each other.

“I’d say I really don’t have very much contact with people in Bloomington,” Boynick said. “I’ve never really had the chance to talk to anyone in person like this, except for the computer science homework.”

IU has done a pretty good job so far, said Garcia. While Garcia did not use CAPS this semester, the service was very made accessible to her and other students.

"I don’t think they could have done anything differently,” Garcia said. “I’ve thought about using CAPS a couple times but didn’t end up doing it.” 

The general feeling among students is that IU did all it could to provide the freshman class with some normalcy.

“They are much more understanding with how much everyone has to deal with,” Tyler said. “I think that they are really trying their best, I mean it’s really hard to make it fit for everybody when life is so crazy right now.”

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