Students Return to Campus, Adjust to New Way of College and Life

How freshmen feel about starting college during a pandemic


(Banner welcoming students living on campus to the University of Utah in Aug. 2014 | Chronicle archives)

By Kyla Yetter


College is an experience, and the current pandemic has brought a new light to that statement. As the new year rolls in, it is becoming increasingly clear things are not going back to normal for the students at the University of Utah anytime soon.

The U required students to be tested for COVID-19 immediately after arriving on campus for move-in, only giving them their room keys after completing the test. The school opted to do a nose and throat swab rather than the deep nasal swab, also known as the brain-scraper test. 

“I was afraid they were gonna do the one way up your nose. But the one you do is basically a swab test. I was nervous, but it wasn’t bad at all,” said freshman Cameron Daniell about the testing process.

This testing method delivered results approximately 12 hours later, at least for Daniell and her roommates. However, even students who tested negative for the virus received strict orders not to leave their rooms, unless they are going out to eat. “We are supposed to just hang out with our roommates and our teammates. They are really strict as far as the dorms go,” Daniell said.

 The university also posted a page dedicated to resources for students at this time. The page includes financial, educational, food, fitness and wellness resources. In addition, the school is keeping class sizes small and spacing desks six feet apart.

Despite the school’s effort to control the virus on campus, oftentimes unplanned congregation occurs naturally as a result of day to day life. Daniell experienced this inconsistency firsthand when standing in line for dinner.

“It’s so funny because they are so strict on social distancing, but when we were in line for dinner there were probably 100 people crowded in the hallway,” Daniell said. 

The university only offers a small amount of in-person classes at the moment, but freshman Madi Jensen expressed her preference for in-person learning. “There’s something about connecting with your peers and teacher in person, that I just think it makes learning so much better,” Jensen said.

Online classes are changing the college experience for freshmen. Not only do students miss the in-class learning experience desired by Jensen, but they also have limited opportunities to socialize with new people and establish a close personal network. Athletes, such as Daniell, are grateful for their teammates in this time of limited social events. 

“I’m so lucky to be on the swim team because I don’t know how I would meet people if I wasn’t,” Daniell said. 

The school is hosting events to prompt mingling — such as a virtual Crimson Night on Aug. 28th — to kick off the new school year. In past years, Crimson Night has been an opportunity for freshmen to eat, meet people and dance. This year though, there will be a live concert stream and games such as bingo and trivia. 

The freshmen are familiar with virtual events due to the various virtual dances and graduation they experienced earlier this year. However, while Jensen expects online events, she does not always enjoy them. In her opinion, these substitute events are not comparable to the real thing.

In fact, when asked her thoughts on the event, Jensen compared the event to one her high school hosted. “I know they tried to do a virtual prom for my high school, and that did not go down so well,” Jensen said.

Daniell also described the virtual events hosted by the school. “The different floors are trying to do as much as they can, they are doing virtual movie nights and stuff like that. There is something to join every day,” Daniell said. 

Despite the drawbacks of online classes and events, students can see some positive aspects of their virtual lives.

Jensen said the online classes she had to take to finish high school were nice because she got to do it at her own pace. “I have probably had about 10 online classes over the past couple of years, but going all online will definitely be a new experience. I think that learning in person is better for me, but online classes have benefits such as flexibility,” said Charity Pittard, a health and kinesiology student at the U.

Jensen, Pittard and Daniell agree on the practicality of online classes and live stream events to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak at the school. 

“I just really hope campuses don’t get shut down. And I hope this year will be a good year, especially since we’ve been having to adjust to everything virtual,” Jensen said.


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