Freshman Terence Deegan studies outside of his first-year dormitory. First-year students are facing new challenges this year while transitioning to college during COVID-19. (Annalise Kelloff/B&W Staff)

First-year jitters: freshmen share challenges of transitioning to remote college life

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For any first-year, transitioning into the college lifestyle can be difficult. Now, as a result of COVID-19, life is different for all college students, especially those who are just settling into their new Lehigh homes. 

In addition to typical first-year anxieties, the class of 2024 is forced to include coronavirus precautions on their list of concerns. 

Erica Steele, ‘24, said Lehigh is doing a good job at adapting despite the limitations of the semester. 

Gryphons enforce a limit of 10 people per gathering and staff keep the facilities clean, she said. Students are not allowed to visit a dorm other than their own.

In dining halls, students are allowed to sit three or four people to a table and are given cards to flip from green to red so the staff know when the table needs to be cleaned. While dining halls are no longer self-serve, students remain in charge of clearing their own tables.

Abbey Peters, ‘24, however, finds dining hall hours difficult to fit into her schedule. With club meetings that can go as late as 7:30 p.m., she finds herself running to get food before Rathbone closes at 8 p.m.

“There was one night when they just told all of us, ‘We’re closed, go somewhere else, figure it out,’ and we all were like, ‘How do we deal with this?’” Peters said. 

Peters feels closing dining halls earlier makes them more crowded than if they were to stay open later. 

Sophia Taverna, ‘24, said the precautions the university is taking help her to feel safe on campus. 

“When I walk around campus, I always see students wearing masks, which is good, and I never see any overcrowded rooms,” Taverna said. 

 Due to social restrictions and extracurricular limitations, making friends has posed a challenge for Lehigh first-years.

“There’s 13 girls in my dorm,” Peters said,  “and I’ve become close with like three or four of them, but it’s definitely not like a super cohesive community.” 

Taverna, who plays for the Lehigh women’s golf team, said making friends has been difficult for her as well.  

“That’s probably the only thing I’ve been really upset about here, pretty much outside of my roommates and the golf team, it’s been sort of difficult (to make friends),” Taverna said.

Steele, who plays for the Lehigh women’s field hockey team, has been starting small group practices that are socially distant.

“Even though you can’t be with everyone at the same time, just being with three or four girls, it’s just nice to be able to start meeting the team even if it’s in a spread out way,” she said.

Steele said being part of a sports team is “like automatic friends.” 

Peters said having friends in different dorms is becoming increasingly difficult as the weather turns.

“Now that it’s getting colder, if I want to hang out with my friends at night, we have to hang out outside because we’re not allowed in other dorms, and it’s cold,” Peters said.

Students are allowed to go into each others’ dorm rooms so long as they are from the same building, as long as the gathering is under 10 people and are all wearing masks. 

In addition to socialization, the transition to online learning has proven difficult for some. 

Taverna said, while she enjoys being able to refer to previously recorded lectures, asynchronous learning can be much more time consuming than typical in-person lectures. 

Steele said this has been the hardest adjustment for her.

“Having to watch the lecture and then do your work, it just feels like it’s really adding to (my) workload,” Steele said. “I like a more structured schedule.”

Peters said all of her classes were labeled as synchronous when she signed up, and they’re still labeled as synchronous, but they do not always feel that way. 

 “I’m doing all my work outside of class and teaching myself as I’m watching the lectures,” Steele said. “The actual class Zoom time feels like forced office hours to me, because I’ve already seen the lectures so I feel like the professors aren’t doing a whole lot.”

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, Taverna likes having the independence of being a college student.

Peters echoed her sentiment. 

“I’m definitely still enjoying meeting new people and being away from home and experiencing something new, even if it is different than I expected it to be,” she said.

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