Nelson: Small Fish in a Socially-Distanced Pond


Jibon ASM Asib

Students at the University of Utah are following the COVID-19 guidelines by wearing masks while working on campus (Photo by Abu Asib | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Paige Nelson, Opinion Writer


In colleges across the country, freshmen are not receiving a proper college experience. First-year students are coming off an abrupt ending to their senior years and don’t get to live on a lively college campus. University of Utah student Ali Viana described her feelings about her first year at college to me. “I knew this year would be different and I was pretty much expecting exactly what’s happening,” Ali said.

“When school got canceled last year I definitely had a stronger reaction to it because it was so out of the blue and I just had no idea that that was coming.” Ali also described how the social aspect of college has been lacking — the only person she’s become close with so far is her roommate. Moving to a new state is always difficult, but this year’s new out-of-state students feel more isolated than ever. The transition to college this year will surely be a hard one, but despite all the unknowns, there are still ways to make freshman year worthwhile.

The U is in phase orange which means that campus residents aren’t allowed to have guests inside their rooms. Large groups are also not permitted in phase orange, which meant that the usual Weeks of Welcome activities were canceled on campus. During last year’s Weeks of Welcome there were barbeques, movie nights, themed-dinners, t-shirt swaps and so much more. This year, freshmen didn’t get the luxury of going out to group events to meet new people on campus.

To make matters more difficult, the seating outside certain dorm areas, like the new Kahlert Village, was removed to encourage social distancing. Kahlert houses more than 900 students, and without seating open inside or outside, it has forced students to go back to their floors to eat their meals instead of getting to meet new people at the dining hall. Social interaction is one of the most important parts of college and students are missing out on it right now.

Although it isn’t the year that any of us wanted, there are ways to make it better. There are still so many opportunities to get involved. The Hinckley Institute of Politics houses extensive opportunities for local, national and international internships. No matter your intended major, there’s a spot for you. Students can also get involved through campus groups despite distancing requirements. I was able to apply, interview and train for my position as an opinion writer remotely.

First-year student Ethan Gotz has jumped right into getting involved on campus. He just got a job at Corner Bakery, to which he happily spends 20 minutes walking for each shift. He is also part of the ski club. But he is most excited about volunteer service at the U through the Bennion Center. “They’re starting this sewing project where they are going to start sewing face masks and then give them to elderly, and hats I think. It’s really cool,” said Gotz. He plans on volunteering on Friday Nights in Kahlert Village where the sewing project is taking place. But if the adjustment to college is proving to be more difficult than you imagined, that’s okay too.

This year, we have more time to adjust to the change from high school to college. Right now, you can choose to focus on school before investing a lot of time in the social aspect. That’s what Ali is doing. She said, “I’m definitely putting more time into everything that I turn in, mainly because I don’t have anything else going on.” Ali explained that she can better take in the knowledge because she has more time to work on the assignments she is given. Thanks to Canvas, the U’s online classroom, teachers are able to post assignments at the beginning of the school week. This gives students ample time to complete their work before the deadline hits.

As upsetting as it is to look back on everything that we’ve missed in the past seven months, we also have to learn to adapt to our new environment. There are ways to stay involved and engaged in learning. And although we didn’t get the high school closure that we were expecting, we can still make the best of our college experience. These are supposed to be the best years of our lives, so let’s not waste the opportunities that come our way.


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