Despite the ongoing pandemic, many colleges across the United States decided to open their campuses and welcome back students this fall. However, with each individual state releasing their own rules and regulations regarding Covid-19, not all college students have the same freedoms.
“I feel like I haven’t had too hard of a time transitioning from high school to college. It’s definitely challenging, though, because with the pandemic limiting what activities we can do, there’s a lot more downtime to think about home or family,” Segarnick said.
Maddi Segarnick, a freshman rowing-recruit at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, likes how her somewhat-rural campus is in close proximity to an urban area.
“There’s a lot of stuff to do on campus, lots of clubs and sports. Then off of campus, there’s a lot of good restaurants and the nightlife is really fun.”
Segarnick lives in an apartment-style dorm with one roommate; the townhouse-like dorm has a front door, living room, kitchen, and separate bedrooms.
As a student-athlete, there are specific university rules that apply to Segarnick’s individual team.
“We’re trying to decrease the spread of COVID within the athletic community, so we’re put into training pods of 10 people that my coach made. This is who we’ll practice with, and who we can be non-socially distant with. My pod is made up of mostly freshmen, some upperclassmen, and one coach. I also see people in class because we have some in-person classes, and I get to see other people on the rowing team, just socially distant,” Segarnick said.
On top of being separated into “pods”, Segarnick also has frequent, mandatory COVID tests. Every other week, she treks to the athletic center to get a saliva test. The locations and frequencies of the COVID-19 tests vary from team to team.
“The number of times you have to get tested definitely depends on what sport you do; for example, the football team is still traveling around the country to play, so they get tested every three days.”
Even though not all of Segarnick’s classes are in-person, she still enjoys riding the main bus to campus every day. If she has an online class, she’ll sit in the library or in a study space so she can separate her school life from her home life.
“I have a combination of Zoom and in-person classes. Every week, I have three in-person classes and the rest of them are on Zoom. Then, every other week, I have an in-person lab.”
While the pandemic has drastically changed the college experience, Segarnick still finds lots of positives in her time at Syracuse so far.
“I love meeting new people, and I love the freedom that you just get in college. I love being on campus and knowing I worked really hard to get where I am. I also love making my own decisions, creating new friendships, and having new responsibilities.”
Similar to Segarnick, Allison Blank has been trying to find positives in this uncertain time.
“I really appreciate how BU has put so much effort into trying to make campus life seem a little normal with everything going on. I still get the normal experience by living here and eating from the dining hall and being able to explore the campus.”
Blank, a freshman and student-athlete at Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts, is finding little ways to enhance her college experience in these uncertain times. While she does have some aspects of a “normal” college experience, living in a dorm with a single roommate, going down to the boathouse to practice with the crew team- she finds that it is difficult to make friends in the pandemic.
“You aren’t able to just knock on someone’s door and hangout with them or go to a team dinner with a large group. It’s hard to do something with more than about 5 people. To make friends, I try to say ‘hi’ to as many people as I can see so I at least can start recognizing names to faces,” Blank said.
Blank has most of her classes on Zoom, and even though she can’t speak with her classmates or professors in-person, she still finds it fairly easy to stay connected through email, Zoom meetings, or other forms of online communication.
When first arriving on campus, Blank was homesick and worried about the long list of rules that she had to follow. However, now she has adjusted to her altered college experience.
“It has started to feel like a new normal to me. I’m starting to adjust to the restrictions and learning how to make friends in creative ways.”
Although Segarnick and Blank attend different schools in completely different locations, they both take pride in how their respective schools have been addressing the multitude of health risks that come along with COVID.
“I’m really proud of the way that Syracuse has been handling the whole situation. We’ve had very few cases, everything’s been handled super well, there haven’t been many complaints. I honestly don’t think I have anything negative to say. Obviously, this is not how I, or anyone, wanted our initial college experience to be, and I really hope that we can go back to a more normal college experience soon,” Segarnick said.
Blank, who is living in a completely urban setting, also believes that her school is effectively prioritizing the students’ health.
“BU has done such a good job with limiting their case numbers and protecting everyone’s safety. While in the first few weeks here I hated all of the restrictions and wanted nothing more than to hangout with all of my friends, I feel a lot of gratitude toward their long set of rules,” Blank said.
Hopefully, the college will start to look and feel more “normal” to students. But until then, it seems that certain college students have found creative ways to enjoy their freshman year.