Freshmen have survived their first semester at Elon University with the fall now coming to a close. Of course, this semester was not a traditional one and had obstacles that no other freshman class has experienced. This includes the COVID-19 pandemic, a tense political situation and a non-traditional semester.
There are over 1,500 freshmen enrolled this year. With the semester looking different than in the past, many freshmen have appreciated being on campus, but some are struggling to balance school work, making friends and staying safe during a pandemic.
With the pandemic shaping how people go about their day-to-day life, it can be a struggle to keep up with all the new restrictions that have been put in place. Since most freshmen live on campus, the new restriction barring visitors in dorms made it harder for them to socialize. In addition, the dropping temperatures and the closure of indoor dining have made it harder to find spots to eat with friends out of the cold.
Freshman Katherine Sloan said she and other freshmen never expected to be on campus this long due to other colleges sending students home after two weeks.
“I didn’t think that we were going to be able to stay at Elon,” Sloan said. “I thought that max, I would be at school for two weeks, and then we’d be sent home. So I think it’s pretty great how we’ve managed to basically have a whole semester and they’ve still tried to have activities.”
William Moner, professor of communication design and faculty director of Historic Neighborhood, said this is a difficult time for everyone, and people cannot always predict what will happen in the future.
“We’re not as adaptable as we think we are,” Moner said. “I think a lot of us are experiencing the same types of challenges this semester … smaller, more aggravating aspects of life have become a lot louder in the past few months.”
With the university learning more about how students can be more social on campus without exposing students to COVID-19, hopefully there will be more opportunities for freshmen to get involved on campus and make long-lasting friendships. However, for some people the amount of time spent on campus has negatively affected their mental health.
Freshman Devin Guilbeau said the limited amount of breaks for students to relax during an already stressful semester has caused a negative impact on their mental health.
“It did a lot of mental damage,” Guilbeau said. “Just from going … from midterm and having just a day break, to go right back into classes. It takes a toll.”
There have been opportunities for freshmen to get involved with events on campus and make friends. Elon has tried to keep up traditions such as Homecoming weekend. Students were able to experience college coffee for the first time in October, and freshmen had a modified convocation, thus allowing for some sense of normalcy to be incorporated into the semester.
Many freshmen, like Sloan, have made friends through living in a dorm. She said she has made most of her friends through talking to her neighbors in her hall.
Guilbeau said that the precautions Elon has taken to help limit the spread of the coronavirus do not fully protect the population from people who may ignore the restrictions put in place to protect the campus.
“Giving the students a little bit more freedom has unfortunately put us in a worse state than we had in the past,” Guilbeau said “Simply just because kids will unfortunately be kids, no matter if they’re in middle school or college students. They take those freedoms as far as they can possibly go without really thinking of the consequences.”
Provost Aswani Volety said in an email that Elon is continuing with the “engaged” and “experiential” residential model and will keep classes mainly in-person or hybrid in winter and spring terms.
Similar to fall semester, spring term will only have small, one to two day breaks. This will help to contain the potential spread of COVID-19 that might occur if students were to have a week-long spring break like in years past, according to Volety.
Despite the uncertainty of what is to come and the struggles that will come along with it, Sloan still feels grateful to be at Elon.
“I was walking through campus, and it was raining, and the bells started ringing. It felt very peaceful, and the campus looked especially beautiful, and I just knew that I made the right choice to come to Elon,” Sloan said.
With the university learning more about how students can be more social on campus without exposing students to COVID-19, hopefully there will be more opportunities for freshmen to get involved on campus and make long-lasting friendships.