A First Time for Everything: How Freshman Students are Adjusting to Campus Life Amid a Pandemic

By: Dustin Petridge | Lifestyle Editor

Photo by: Michael Dunn | Photographer

Returning to campus in the fall is always a perplexing and sometimes overwhelming experience for every student, with new information seeming to appear from every possible outlet. That rollercoaster of emotions is monumental for some, but for freshman students, it is one of uncertainty and confusion. That perfect image everyone has of arriving on campus after graduating from high school and finally taking the first step to independence in life has been tarnished by the coronavirus. 

While many first-year students have decided to attend classes entirely online, the majority have decided to brave the risk head-on and go to classes as usual, adhering to the many safety protocols in place to prevent the virus from spreading on campus. This semester has been unusual for many, with some hallways entirely empty and categories of classes restricted to remote instruction or even cancelled altogether. 

For freshman student Brandon Petridge, his first experience in college has been one he will remember, but not for the reasons one would typically expect. Petridge is an 18-year-old finance major who has been looking forward to college for a long time, especially since finding out he is attending with some of his best friends. 

However, since stepping foot on campus for the first time, he has seen a significantly different perspective on college life, one that has an unsure future. The first major change Petridge noticed was the abundance of students wearing masks– like something that would’ve only been seen in something like a political demonstration in the past. This change, while necessary, has proven to create an obstacle in communication and has made basic exchanges on campus slightly more difficult– a sign of the times.

Another big change in college life has been the transition to online instruction for many classes, something that Brandon is already getting used to. “I was supposed to have one class in-person, but something changed in the schedule and all of my classes are online now”, Petridge said. He doesn’t mind the transition as much as some other students because he already enjoys spending time inside. 

When asked about the overall return to a school environment, Petridge enjoys having a routine to look forward to again after being stuck at home since March during his last year of high school. 

“It breaks up the monotony of being at home and provides a structure where we previously had none,” Petridge said. 

He also expressed his prediction on the future of college life during the COVID-19 pandemic and how our university institutions would hold up during a stressful time like this. 

“Considering the rumors about off-campus parties and internal policies with the university itself, no one can really know if they’ll shut down again, so we’ll find out later”, Petridge said. He mentioned that returning students to their respective towns and cities could further spread the virus if done improperly, though he sounds hopeful throughout the entire situation. 

Overall, life as a freshman student in the year 2020 is a unique experience, and one that will be studied for years to come, especially from a historical perspective. From the adaptation in the Student Center to the newly-built Hancock-Whitney Stadium, a clear theme of persistence and hard work shines through the unforeseen challenge presented to the university community.