“New normal” is all freshmen know

Lack of social infrastructure on campus is negatively affecting freshmen

Aubrey Rhoadarmer, Staff Writer

Illustration by Micky Floes-Nieves

Before coming to Seattle Pacific University, every freshman had an image of what they thought college would be like. For some, that image involved staying up late with their friends in their dorm rooms. For others, it was about campus events or sports games.

However, due to COVID-19, these freshmen have experienced something far from their imaginations.

I believe that without the social structures that existed on campus previously, freshmen have found a new normal that will follow them for the rest of their college careers. Unfortunately, that new normal is less than positive.

The social structures set up for all students has been lacking, and for freshmen who have never experienced college before, the absence of support has made the transition into college difficult.

“I was a little bit surprised by the lack of social infrastructure supplied by the university,” first-year mechanical engineering student Carrie Cox explained. “A lot of it has just been ‘take matters into your own hands’ which is nice, except when you take away all the tools to do that. It’s like being told to make a brick without straw.”

Students are struggling to bridge the gap that COVID restrictions have created.

Dorm halls have had to cut down on the number of events they can host, as well as having to host most of them online. There are few indoor on-campus locations where students from different dorm halls can gather to spend time together, and there has been virtually no cross-dorm socialization.

This altered version of “The College Experience” is all that the class of 2024 knows.

“I don’t know what it was like before. All I know is six feet, and masks, and don’t talk to each other. That’s my reality,” First-year pre-law student Jayden McCarrell said.

Because the incoming freshmen have nothing to compare this experience to, this is the way they are going to view college in the coming years. It is the way they have learned to make friends and put themselves out there will set a precedent for the rest of their college life.

“For freshmen who are just coming onto campus, they might get used to their hermit-ish lifestyle and they’ll be reluctant to go out of their rooms after they’ve been used to that for so long,” Freshman accounting major Josiah Yuen explained.

For less outgoing students, this time has been hard. It feels almost impossible to meet people when there are so many rules discouraging you. It’s just easier to sit in your dorm rather than go out.

Students in the traditional style dorms, Ashton and Hill, weren’t allowed roommates this quarter. Living with a roommate can teach students how to compromise, yet the freshmen this year are unable to have that experience. It will be a shock when next quarter or next year they have to share their space with another person.

The six feet rule makes it impossible for students to touch each other. Friends can’t hug each other or even give each other high fives. These acts of affection and appreciation can deepen and solidify relationships, but without them, relationships remain surface level. Even if the rule is eventually lifted, friends may feel uncomfortable touching after their relationship has been entirely no contact.

Being constantly isolated is very damaging to the mental health of students. The lack of socialization can make students feel trapped and overwhelmed when they have no one to talk to. They can feel disassociated from reality or lost. These feelings could persist for years.

Yet, there are good things that may come from the bad.

Students are learning to be creative, finding new ways to spend time together. Friends Zoom with each other while eating meals, or play Among Us with their floors. It’s frustrating to live like this, but not impossible.

In the end, freshmen will still benefit from being on campus during COVID, even if it’s not the experience they had hoped for. They’ll learn to be more self-reliant and to stand up for themselves when it matters. They’ll get to experience their newfound freedom, and begin to find themselves in a world apart from their families. It won’t be all bad.

However, it is undeniable that the restrictions already have and will continue to hurt the class of 2024. We’ll just have to wait and see how they handle it.