Commentary, Schools

COVID-19: Freshman Year, An Inside Scoop

By: Parker Neeley, Sentinel Contributing Writer

In early March, it was clear that 2020 was going to be an eventful year. Elections, mass hysteria, and a crippling stock market were the key components to a difficult beginning of the new decade. After graduating from Hillcrest High School with the Class of 2020, I knew that my next year at the College of Charleston was going to be a strange school year. The summer was filled with many unknowns, when would college would start, different methods to the registration process, and the dreadful, but looming question of was my freshman year even going to happen?

Three months in and it has been nothing short of unique with mask mandates, Zoom classes, and restrictions that have prohibited us from a normal college experience. Our countries college campus was not starting with the same excitement many before us had experienced. Schools all over the country have done a wonderful job of containing the virus, however, the rules keep us distance from meeting new friends, being part of an in-person classes and being true college freshman, experiencing life away from home. Personally, I’ve only had two midterm exams out of the five classes I am currently enrolled in this semester. More importantly, 60% of my teachers felt the semester had been too extraordinary to add to the pressure of a new lifestyle for enrolled freshmen. The exams that were given were not in-depth and had clearly been altered from previous years. In addition, I have noticed the struggle of the tenured professors, with the technology and their abilities to efficiently communicate with their students. Understanding that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” many students have found themselves struggling at times in the class yet offered more patience to these eager-to-learn professors in a new world themselves.

But still, one cannot help but wonder what the curriculum change has done to their confidence. Do they still believe in their traditional teaching routines-methods? This pandemic has taken a toll on everyone’s mental, physical, and emotional health. Some people have added a few pounds, some are driving themselves insane while being stuck at home, and others are simply losing cognitive abilities without human interaction. As a young person in this ever-changing world, I cannot help but question the value of my post-high school educational journey. Am I getting the full experience? Am I becoming anti-social? Am I losing the work ethic that was well established before this social plague attacked? Talking and deeply discussing these worldly affairs with my fellow student body members and neighbors, I have begun to see that I am not the only one that feels this way. We may seem like a silent minority at this moment in time, as the health of the masses is crucial to officials, but there is an unspoken resentment towards this pandemic. It is uncontrollable from our perspectives. Without a vaccine, we may be looking at this spring as the third consecutive semester of online, time-filling work, and another couple of months of unnecessary curriculum-based uselessness. It feels as if we are stuck in a loop that will not show us the end, however, it seems to keep us hoping for the best. The shutdowns have made my generation, Gen-Z, more active on social media platforms that we already spend too much time on. We have been fed false and also important information politically, but at the same time, we have been given a chance to refresh ourselves as a society. Our generation became inspired to make justice reforms, get excited about political events and movements, and granted us an opportunity to take our newfound belief systems to the older population that constitutes our laws.

Whether we are apolitical or partisan affiliated, the new era of college students has determined that COVID-19 will not stop us from changing the world. The election will give us clarity, as Republicans, Democrats, undecideds, or moderates, the energy to fight and change their pandemic altering agendas. 2021 is approaching and we have yet to agree on the best way to handle this vaccine production and spread reduction. Urgency of our elected representatives is vital to our continuation as a thriving nation and we should be in “Capitol Hill’s backyard” until they can formulate a mass cooperation. These are the people in charge of protecting us as a country and they have not accomplished anything besides faction bickering to push their personalized agendas. The old saying goes, “United we stand, divided we fall.” This has been demonstrated on the news networks and on the internet as we crave a mutual agreement to stop this life-changing experience from continuing.

College has been interesting and quite definitely not the same for the Class of ’24, as described by upper classmen, but we have persevered and are attempting to make do with what we all have been provided. Our generation may seem at odds with our elders in school of thought, though we are now more motivated than ever to create a better world for people from all walks of life. COVID-19, as devastating as it has been, may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the future of humanity. It all starts with the younger population of America, who see and want more for our country, and other foreign nations as well.

Overall, I am thrilled to be able to experience a freshman year in college. Years of school have prepared me for this moment and though it has been unusual, the time I have spent on campus has been wonderful. The pandemic truly gave the world time to sit back and reflect on the most important parts of our lives. We all have a new perspective on life after the difficult last few months. 2021 will be a fresh start for all of us to get back to normality, but in continue to take care of yourself and your loved ones.

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