By Melanee Terry
College students across the country are experiencing a very different kind of fall semester because of COVID-19. For freshman students in particular, like UMPI Criminal Justice major Wyatt Nadeau, this is especially true as they are simultaneously navigating an important new beginning: their very first months in college.
College freshmen this year are experiencing a strange transition from high school to their college lives. With the current status of the pandemic, colleges across the country, including UMPI, are taking precautions. These regulations and changes to campuses are impacting students like Wyatt, who are just starting their college experience.
The transition from high school to college is a challenging one, especially during a pandemic. Wyatt is from Dyer Brook and has experienced a self-described weird couple of first months in college. Freshmen usually spend their first week of college in orientation. In typical years, students socialize with others, attend events, and meet new people. With many areas and events closed on campus, however, it has been difficult to socialize and create friendships the same way as freshmen.
“Before COVID, I expected college to have a lot of people walking around campus and hanging out, but it’s the complete opposite. It seems like we go to school with only a few people,” Wyatt said. “The first week felt weird going from high school to college. Now it feels normal.”
Every building on campus looks different this semester, including the dormitories. Certain doorways are only used for entry or exits. Masks must be worn at all times, except for in the showers and in your own rooms. Although living in the dorms is much different than in the past, current freshmen are finding ways to enjoy themselves. Students are able to relax and be themselves in the rooms.
“I live in the dorms and I like it. When I want to relax, it’s nice to come into my dorm and watch TV or play video games,” Wyatt said.
Adjusting to college courses after high school is hard on its own and even more so with the pandemic. High schools around the country were forced to switch to online in the midst of the pandemic last spring. High school seniors finished their last weeks of school taking online classes, separated from their classmates. As they started classes in college, they were already adjusted to online learning. Although the transition from high school classes to online courses may have been easier, many students still do not enjoy online learning.
“I definitely pay attention more in-person,” Wyatt said.“I don’t like online classes because it’s very easy to get distracted on your phone.”
The changes to people’s lifestyles has been drastic, especially young adults going into college. Wyatt utilizes Gentile Hall to work out and has to wear a mask at all times. During class time, he follows regulations by wiping down tables, following directional signage around campus, and using hand sanitizer.
“I don’t like wearing masks at all and wiping down tables when we get to class is something I didn’t have to do before COVID,” Wyatt said.
Having a social life during these past couple of months has been challenging, especially since the Coronavirus prevents people from being together. College students spend a large amount of time socializing with each other. This cannot be done to the same extent during a pandemic. Wyatt has not been able to hang out with friends and socialize in the same ways he used to. He was able to spend time elsewhere because of the status of the pandemic. During the summer, Wyatt continued to focus on his hobbies, including playing the guitar.
“I play guitar and that was something I did a lot during the beginning of the pandemic,” Wyatt said. “I play at a church in Oakfield and we were supposed to go to a college in Boston to play at an Operation Christmas Child event, but it was cancelled.”
When college freshmen came to campus this fall, they had already been through a lot because of the way their senior year ended in high school. Starting college is an opportunity for a fresh start and these freshmen had to adapt to even more changes in their lives and education. Students like Wyatt have had an eventful year and something that this year has taught them is that they are prepared for anything in the year of 2020.