My freshman year experience looked a lot different than what freshmen are experiencing today. Everyone in the Class of 2021 arrived to campus the same weekend. We were always allowed in each other’s rooms and in other dorms. Classes were held in person. The dining halls were a place for friends to sit, dine and catch up for hours on end. Brother and sister dorms often commingled. And we weren’t trying to navigate our first year at Notre Dame in the midst of a pandemic.
Now that I’m a senior living off-campus, I’m not all that aware of what goes on on campus. Sure, I read the emails from Erin Hoffmann Harding that crowd my inbox and I watch videos of Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. deliver speeches in regard to the pandemic. But I’m no longer physically there to experience what each class goes through on a daily basis.
Now, I can’t help but wonder what underclassmen go through, especially the freshman class. I don’t live amongst the freshman anymore nor do I have the pleasure of sitting next to any freshmen in my classes. That said, I thought it best to reach out to the Class of 2024 to listen to their experiences during this unprecedented school year. Here are some of their responses.
“I think that making friends in other dorms has been really difficult. As with anything in the pandemic, you have to be really intentional about everything, especially with getting to know people and making time to hang out.”
“Even though Notre Dame has made a strong effort to host events across campus, it has been difficult to find safe things to do on the weekend with friends. I got lucky and made a number of solid friendships from the beginning, but I know that without the pandemic, I would have had the ability to make even more.”
“The most challenging thing I have experienced as a first-year college student living on campus during the pandemic has been finding ways to socialize, especially when it got cold and socializing outside was not an option. It was easy to socialize in safe ways when it was warm, but it has been a lot harder with restrictions on dorms and the cold weather.”
“The hardest part is just trying to meet people. Wearing masks already makes it harder for us to put a name to a person's face. On top of that, our opportunities to meet up with other students have been very limited, especially with students from other dorms. Having social gatherings of more than a few people has been really difficult to plan with all the restrictions. On top of that, there is the flipped-classroom model which most classes are following now. This makes it very easy to fall behind if you do not understand a concept, and all office hours and meetings with professors are virtual, which again makes it harder to connect with the faculty here on campus.”
“The most challenging thing I faced during my first year at ND was being quarantined during the Clemson game. However, the worst part was that I was in the Morris Inn, so I could literally hear the band and the cheering in the stands from my room. When ND rushed the field, it was one of the happiest and saddest moments of my life.”
“Living on campus during the pandemic has made making friends extremely difficult. Without the opportunities for friendships to arise organically through passing interactions in the dorms where someone invites you in their room or large gatherings where friends introduce you to friends, a lot of us have been isolated to small groups and forced to remain distant from the rest of our class. I still don't feel like I am truly a part of the Notre Dame family because we haven't had any experiences that would typically bond us together. The physical distance we are expected to observe has created an emotional distance. It's harder for us as students to connect with one another and create memories with those around us when we can hardly even eat and converse with more than one friend at a time.”
“The most challenging thing that I've experienced as a first-year college student living on campus during a pandemic is the ability to maintain relationships with people you've just briefly gotten to know. I think it was really hard that we couldn't eat in the dining halls during the first semester because it limited opportunities to continue to get to know our peers better. I also feel like such a short, condensed semester and long winter break made it difficult to form solid relationships with people.”
“To be completely honest, my most memorable experiences this year have been the small, unexpected moments. Having dreamt of coming to Notre Dame my entire life, I thought the most memorable experiences would be football games, SYRs and dorm parties. Don't get me wrong, I love football games and am so grateful we were able to go to games in-person. But even they were not quite what I had envisioned, having gone to games pre-COVID. Instead, my most memorable experiences this year were late-night study dates at the library or on hammocks by the lake, roasting marshmallows on library lawn, and sitting in the hallway of our dorm on a Friday night during lockdown, laughing about how lame we were, with the people that became my best friends.”
“When we went online it was really easy to form connections with people in your immediate dorm community. But when we went back to classes we sort of formed friendships with people in our dorms so if you were already comfortable with the friends you already had it took more effort to try and converse with those who are spread apart in the classroom.”
“A compressed semester and a lack of genuine restorative breaks have contributed to my heightened sense of stress as well as the decline in mental health. I constantly felt like I was working with little time to enjoy my hobbies or bond with my friends.”
“The most memorable experience for me during my first year probably has to be the Clemson football game. I remember being in the emotional throws of the event for the entire evening and getting to experience the joy of us winning in double overtime with my friends felt like a quintessential college experience.”
“My room is covered with the black dining hall boxes. I always enjoyed eating all my meals with others as I did back home with my family, but now I too often find myself carrying back stacks of food boxes back to my room to eat on my own due to the restrictions. COVID-19 has definitely made simple tasks on campus much more difficult to enjoy, adding on stress to the average student’s life here at ND.”
“Managing all of the restrictions while trying to experience all of the things I have imagined at college has been extremely difficult, especially at a university specifically built around the community aspect. Though I have made amazing friendships, relationships and memories, the pandemic and its impact is always something on my mind and has been another thought that makes my daily life a little more gray and a little less black and white.”
“I come from Lebanon, which means that the distance itself wasn't easy at first and the amount of uncertainty about if I will be sent back home or not was very stressful. In addition, meeting new people at first wasn't easy mainly because of the masks, but, at the end of the day, things worked out and the semester went great.”
“I've struggled to cope with a recurring feeling of loneliness. I'm not the most extroverted person under normal circumstances, so our current social conditions and restrictions make it even harder for someone like me to reach out to others or to form meaningful connections, connections that I find myself longing for. I haven't fallen into self-pity, however. I know that I'll have to overcome this bit of adversity one way or another, and every opportunity to do so counts.”
“47-40 ND - Clemson. In the middle of a pandemic.”