Abby Pingpank is a senior at North Allegheny. She plays the violin in the NASH Orchestra, and she also is a part of the Cross Country team. In her free time, you can find her hanging out with her friends, taking long walks with her dog, and practicing her photography skills.
An Unfortunate Start
NA's Class of 2020 thought their quarantined days were behind them.... They thought wrong.
September 24, 2020
The Class of 2020 had it hard. No Project Water Dodgeball Tournament. No TigerThon. No Prom. And no traditional graduation. But after they received their diplomas, it appeared that a return to normalcy was well on its way.
Then it came time for college.
“Wear a mask at all times unless you are in your dorm or hall,” said Jackson Alexander. Alexander is a freshman attending Westminster College, which has about 1100-1200 undergraduate students.
Even at yet another school, the rules seem to be the same. “There is no visitation in the rooms. I can’t even go to my friend’s room because he’s on the first floor and I’m on the third.” Even though that is one difficulty Alexander may be facing, he is having a pretty easy time making friends. “It’s pretty easy to meet new people here. Everyone is super friendly and easy to talk to.”
Many freshmen have been relying on their roommate, so they have somebody to talk to, but not all have one.
“I have a roommate but I also don’t have a roommate,” Alexander said. “He lives 10 minutes off-campus, and he spends most nights at home instead of the room, so I rarely see him.”
Even though the social aspect of college may not what Jackson expected, the academic aspect is going quite well.
“I have three in-person classes and two online. They are just like classes at the high school level.” Alexander said. The classes are a lot easier than I had expected. I feel that NA has prepared me well for the rigor of college learning.”
Even at college, he is finding that some teachers and professors are having some technical difficulties. “Some of the teachers don’t understand how to work zoom, and when they get frustrated they just cancel the class”
Alexander, however, did get sent home after only after starting his second week on campus. “My one friend tested positive, and I got sent home for two weeks to quarantine. It didn’t really bother me, because I just had to do all my classes online.”
“Within the first week of college, I noticed the striking differences and similarities with high school,” said Jaime Martinez. Martinez is a freshman at John Hopkins University, which has 6,526 undergraduates. “College is a different experience in the way that a lot of the workload is directly offloaded on you, and it is your sole responsibility to academically thrive.”
While Martinez is discovering the differences between high school and college in a different way this year, he is coming to realize that while this is a tough situation, it is the safest way for him to learn. “In addition, in college, there is a lot more free time,” Martinez said. “No more bell periods and no more waking up at 6:00 AM!”
However, not knowing anyone that goes to his new school can pose a bit of a challenge for him. “As college is a highly social setting, studying remotely has been awkward at times; however, I realize that things end up working for the best and I am ultimately much safer at home.”
At JHU, only the select few students were allowed back on campus. “Students who face extraordinary economic or family hardship were allowed on campus, but they are few and far between, and are required to live under strict guidelines and testing protocols.”
Martinez has not heard anything from the university on when his arrival to campus may be, but he is rolling with whatever comes at him. He hopes to be returning in the spring.
Amid the pandemic, college freshman have experienced a unique start.
“BYU requires that all students and staff wear masks in all buildings, classrooms, and on campus.” About 1,850 miles from home, Rachel Morrell is a freshman at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. BYU is a university with about 30,000 undergraduate students.
“I share a room with one other girl, but we share a kitchen, living room, and two bathrooms with four other girls, making six of us total,” Morrell stated. “I was kind of nervous about it at first but at least the girl I am sharing a room with is taking things seriously.”
When it comes to the rigor of classes for Morrell, however, that was something she was prepared for. “NA is a really advanced high school compared to some of the high schools in Utah so I feel a bit ahead of some people, but overall if I just focus and push through it isn’t so bad.”
Morrell’s classes are split half online and half in person. “Most of my classrooms are built like small auditoriums so every other row is blocked off and there are stickers on every third chair.” Even with these accommodations, she seems to be lucky at BYU, because many of her friends have only one or two classes in person.
With having nothing to do, however, Morrell has found a lot of her time is being used to cure her boredom. “ I have so much downtime that I need to be using for schoolwork. I get so bored after sitting at my desk for zoom calls that I don’t want to sit still and start my work.”
The best way to cure college boredom may be to meet new people. However, this year that is not possible. “I try my best to talk to people before class but most of the new people I’ve met have been close friends of my roommates.”
Even though her freshman year of college is not going as expected, Rachel is doing all that she can to make the best of her circumstances.
Jacob Pan is a freshman at Rice University in Houston, Texas. He was excited to start at the school of his dreams. That was until his college experience was turned completely remote for the fall semester. He, however, is not alone. Along with him thousands of college freshmen are facing this devastation to the first parts of their college lives.
Pan is currently at his home due to the fact that he chose to do this semester online. Rice allowed students to choose if they wanted to come to campus or to stay home. He chose to stay home because Houston was getting slammed with COVID-19 cases right as school was starting up.
“It definitely doesn’t feel the same,” Pan stated. “You’re not really able to meet up with new friends after or before class. However, it’s definitely nice to not have to walk to different buildings across campus.”
Even though Pan is stuck at home, he has been trying to make the best of his situation. He has tried to make somewhat of a relaxing first semester, and focus on his grades when there are no other distractions that the college experience brings with it.
“Overall, a very different, but pretty chill experience so far,”
Pan, along with many other students, hope that their remote experience will end after the first semester. They hope that their college experiences will get to begin in the spring of 2021.
It is really difficult to be able to make friends,” said Megan Wilson, a freshman at Waynesburg University. “Everyone is wearing a mask and has to be socially distant. You can’t go into class and sit next to someone and introduce yourself.”
Waynesburg, a school of approximately 1,400 undergraduates, requires students to wear masks at all times. Additionally, guests from off-campus are not permitted on campus.
But there are some unexpected benefits for Wilson.
“Not having to go to my 8 am class all the time is very nice,” she said. “Sitting in bed and doing class is definitely the best, I think. And when it gets cold outside, it will be great.”
Additionally, with social opportunities scaled back to a minimum, Wilson is finding that her academic focus is stronger.
“I do have a lot of downtime,” she said. “I am getting ahead on homework, going to the gym, and FaceTiming my friends and family.”
Wilson is very lucky compared to most students. She has most of her classes in person. “The majority of my classes are in person, I have one fully online. Many of them are in person, and then sometimes like once a week or so they are online. I guess hybrid is what they call it.”
But like so many other college students this year, Wilson is finding that her new routine can grow thin quickly.
“The boredom is making me sad, and I miss home and my friends,” she said. “It is very difficult to get used to calling your mom and dad on the phone, and not being able to see them all the time. I do have some anxiety about all that I am trying to cope with.”