By Kalli Colacino and McKenzie Collins
Features Editor and Staff Writer
As a result of the global pandemic, freshmen are experiencing college in an unconventional way — in their childhood bedrooms. After a remote welcome to the College, freshmen have begun adapting to a new normal.
“The whole college experience has changed a lot,” said Meghan Gelcius, a freshman marketing major. “College is about the connections you make, which have to be put on hold.”
From the start, freshmen have been deprived of the inaugural college experiences: moving in, meeting friends and running to their first classes. They have begun the next chapter of their lives in quarantine. Without football games, club meetings or frequent socialization, the newest students at the College have found new ways to manage.
While it’s difficult to forget that the typical college experience was stolen from them, the Class of 2024 is determined to stay optimistic.
“So far (classes) have been pretty good,” said Nathaniel “Josh” Laude, a freshman music education major. “The teachers are friendly, the work is manageable and my classmates are fun to talk to. Sometimes it can get draining with all the Zoom (sessions), but I’ll adjust.”
The transition to the College required the freshman class to learn how to engage with school on new platforms such as Canvas and PAWS. Despite the challenges, freshmen have adapted to the new, online environment.
Although the freshmen class seems to be encouraging the idea of “Zoom University,” there is still the thought of what could have been.
“It’s very heartbreaking to not be on campus,” Gelcius said. “But at the end of the day, everyone is safer at home.”
Due to a lack of physical socialization with their classmates, freshmen are forced to improvise and find new ways to stay connected. Some have taken to social media to engage with the College’s clubs and organizations or to meet their peers and make new friends. Gelcius is staying connected by networking with peers whom she met in Zoom breakout rooms during class.
“The main hardship with remote-only classes is the lack of interaction,” said Tamara Rene, a freshman nursing major. “I don’t hate taking classes online, but I’d much rather be in person.”
The College has been doing what it can to keep the freshman class involved. The virtual student involvement fair on Aug. 26 gave students the ability to connect with members of each student organization the College offers.
The College’s Best Buddies program has already hosted social hours, the Order of the Nose Biting Teacups has hosted a virtual scavenger hunt and “RECreate Your Night” has offered a few D.I.Y. crafts, all designed to offer a platform for students to bond with their peers. In the next month, freshmen will be invited to virtually participate in social events provided by the various organizations that were introduced at the fair.
“The club fair was a very good experience. I enjoyed hopping on different zooms to hear about the things I am interested in,” Gelcius said.
The College introduced a new event for first-year students. The “Spend a Day at TCNJ” program will allow students to socialize while remaining socially distant.
In the class-wide email, the Office of Student Transitions wrote that activities are “still being finalized but will include icebreakers, a welcome from (College President Kathryn) Foster, a campus tour, lunch and resource fair.” The program is currently set to take place over the course of 11 days in October.
Even with efforts to accommodate the new way of learning, it’s inevitable that this generation of college students have a unique set of challenges upon them. As a music major, Laude is experiencing firsthand how remote classes bring their challenges.
“Taking music courses online is not ideal because you’d typically play alongside other musicians and follow the conductor,” Laude said. “Due to the video delay it’s not possible to do that through Zoom.”
Music students now have to deal with virtual problems, such as inevitable video chat delays. Nonetheless, students at the College are determined to look on the bright side.
“One good thing to come out of this experience is that once we come back to campus, we will be so grateful,” Gelcuis said.