First Year, Six Feet Apart: COVID-19’s Impact on the Freshman Experience

Author: Meghan Cappitelli

Freshman See Caption File"

There’s no denying that the Notre Dame community is constantly adjusting to new norms and rules brought about by COVID-19, but there’s one group of students who have an additional adjustment to make: the first years. Being a freshman in college is always an experience, so what does it look like to be a freshman during a pandemic?


Making friends and going to classes have taken on whole new meanings this year. Freshman Joe Esslinger, a resident of Stanford Hall, has made the majority of his friends within his own hall because of social restrictions in place.“The biggest challenge has been meeting new people because it’s so difficult with the social distancing,” said Esslinger. “It’s very hard to put names to faces since everyone is masked.”


Many freshmen rely on classes as another outlet for meeting people from different halls, but the recent transition to online instruction has posed a major roadblock.


“It definitely isn’t easy to make friends during a Zoom class, and I’ve found it harder to focus, but at least I can wake up at 7:55 a.m. for my 8 a.m.” said freshman Josephine Drake.


Amidst all the COVID-related chaos, Drake has been able to assimilate well and begin to find her place here at Notre Dame. “I’m really lucky in the sense that my random roommate turned out to be one of my best friends,” she said. “It made the transition that much easier.”


For freshman Claire Crafts, the hardest part of the transition to college life has been accepting the reality of this situation. “My biggest challenge has been letting go of expectations about what the beginning of college would have been like if we weren’t in a pandemic,” she explained. “It’s

hard hearing the upperclassmen’s stories about their freshman year experiences and equating those to the differences COVID-19 has necessitated for our class.”


While this was not the experience most freshmen had in mind for their first semester of college, it will nonetheless be a year nobody forgets.


“I pictured my first few weeks of freshman year to be a bit more hectic, but all things considered, I’m still having fun,” said Drake. “We are all just grateful to be here.”