Freshman year 2.0

How the pandemic took away our freshman year


By Lauren Sussmann, Collegian Contributor

An oddity strikes me every now and then: I am a sophomore in college. It is a simple and indisputable fact, but with everything that has happened in the last year and a half, it seems as though I am caught between two lifetimes. One moment ago, I was graduating from my high school and giving social distanced goodbyes to people I knew for half my life. Now, I am entering my second year of college.

The world has changed so much in such a short period of time. From wildfires to politics to pandemics, it seems that the necessary transition period between high school and college was lost in the whirlwind, and I am still stuck somewhere in between. The freshman year of bonding and “welcome to campus” activities was replaced with online classes and necessary guidelines. While I was getting used to Zoom, a part of me wondered how classes could ever not be held online. Clubs were almost entirely a thing of fiction to me.

The typical college experience seemed like something from another world, as if it was made for someone else and not me. Just when I was adjusting to the world of online college, we were told that we could come back.

Coming back to campus was exhilarating. For months I tried to imagine how in person classes would be held. Would there be an in-person version of Zoom breakout rooms? How much time would be gained from professors not having technical difficulties? Though I was technically going in as a sophomore, I seemed to have more questions than when I went in my freshman year.

This was made worse by the overwhelming feeling of missing all the things I was supposed to know. Even though my freshman year was not spent here, I felt like I should have been accustomed to things I never experienced. Even though I knew I did nothing wrong, I felt at fault for being in the wrong transition period. I’m now back to square one, looking for all the answers I’m missing and questioning where I will fit in now that we are back on campus. I had no idea that, even as a sophomore, I would find myself on Google Maps, searching blindly for my next class. I should know all the landmarks and the slang around campus, but it seems like every day I am learning something new.

So far, the start of my sophomore year has been spent trying to find my spot in the campus community. I had to learn how to find my way around Morill, that the dining campus app is nearly never right (if the app says the dining commons are “not busy,” don’t trust it; it will — without fail — be busy) and that walking 10 miles a day is not only possible but something I must do every day to get to classes. These lessons have been lost to our near non-existent freshman year, and now we must slowly relearn them. Though it is overwhelming, there is also beauty in it. Even a year later, it is something that we are experiencing together as a group.

I overheard someone say that “one second I was finishing my senior year of high school and now I am starting my second year of college.” All the things we missed in our year off campus were necessary to a smooth transition period, and the lack of such is unique to the class of 2024 and anyone who started college during a pandemic.

Most people only go through their freshman year once, and going through it twice takes real strength. We all left high school unsure of what the future may hold and now that there seems to be stability, we are left picking up the pieces to start our college careers.

There is no right way to do college, and there is no right way to handle a situation such as the one we were thrown into. There is comfort in knowing that what we are going through is not unique to us though. It is normal to feel unsure of where we belong, and it is important that we are patient with ourselves. Most people only are required to go through one freshman year, but we had to go through two – and that is something that takes strength. It is okay to feel as though you may be living freshman year 2.0, no matter how confusing that may be.

Lauren Sussmann can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @laurensussmann1.