Being a first-year college student usually comes with a certain amount of stress and excitement. During the year of a global pandemic, students are still stressed and excited, just for different reasons.
The fall 2020 semester has changed how the entire campus operates, from the functions of on-campus dining to whether or not friends can visit in a residence hall. Kelsey Schmeling, Valentina Rivero, Clarke Norman and Brianna Brennan, all first-year students in the Doisy College of Health Sciences, are well aware of those changes and how it’s affected their college experience.
Fall Welcome, the orientation program designed to help students move in and acclimate to campus in the fall semester, saw many changes this year to adhere to physical distancing and other campus-wide policies.
In a regular year, checking out social media posts and promotional material is how students can mentally prepare for Fall Welcome. This year, though, it almost hindered students’ abilities to get ready for school.
“For our expectations coming into it, we could see the videos and people talking about before, but we never experienced what it should have been,” says Brennan.
“Yeah that didn’t help, watching all those videos,” agreed Rivero. “A low for me was the fact that it wasn’t the full experience,” she later said.
Many of the changes for this semester had to do with large gatherings. There was no PaintSLU on Olive-Compton Parking Garage and no Party on Grand this year.
“There was a lot of downtime,” says Schmeling.
Additionally, all first year students were put into small groups so they could still gather and have discussions with their Oriflamme leader.
“I didn’t get to meet anyone else except the people that were in my group, and they were all on my floor. I kind of wanted to branch out more,” says Rivero.
While the necessary changes to Fall Welcome this year may have seemed less-than-ideal compared to past years, they were aimed at helping the SLU community stay as safe as possible. It may have been different, but first-year students were still able to experience the highs and lows of a college transition.
“Getting to meet people was a high. I was really homesick my first week, so that would be a low I guess,” says Schmeling.
Considering that SLU is only about five weeks into the academic year, there’s plenty more time for the semester to progress and develop. Though every day, first-year students compare life on campus to their own expectations of college.
Rivero says that she imagined, “being involved, having a ton of friends, and going to games and stuff, like supporting the school and becoming friends with teachers, it would be a lot of fun.”
“It’s been a nice experience,” says Norman, “Different from what I expected.”
Much of the social interaction that the four students have is from the people that they were able to meet during Fall Welcome: the people living on their floor in Reinert Hall.
“We’re all super close with our floor,” states Schmeling.
“Jori [Brewer, their RA] is really helping us,” says Rivero.
While many things are different this semester, such as what they did during Fall Welcome, students are still able to find community and do things that regular college students would do:
“Ya we go to Target a lot with our whole floor,” laughed Brennan.