COVID-19 social dilemma

How COVID-19 has been socially impacting first years at Hamline University

Hafsa Ahmed, Columnist

As the year goes on with the new transition from COVID-19, first-year students are slowly adjusting to the changes that surround their college  experience. 

For the majority of students, s Senior year high school virtual graduation was a mess. With the Fall 2020 semester underway, as we come to terms with the pandemic and the protocols that follow, a question comes to mind: How has COVID-19 impacted first-year students socially? 

As a first-year commuter, I understand the struggle it is to stay connected with your school and classmates without living on campus. Although that might already be an obvious struggle, I thought that there must be at least some wavelength of this among first-year dorming students who are new to the community. 

Through my interviews, there has been a sense of understanding on the campus’s approach to the pandemic, but an acknowledgment that there are some things that should be looked at. All of the first years that I’ve interviewed have agreed that Hamline has done well in how it has so far handled the pandemic and in getting students to continue their education whether through online or hybrid within class options. However, there have been some realizations that there is a sense of social experiences missing.

“The professors right now are just focused on keeping the class in check … It’s really difficult especially since they are trying to limit the in-person contact,” said first-year student Sumeya Mohamud. Mohamud feels that it is harder to learn online when all that students are doing is looking at screens and having difficulties trying to not only ask questions but build better connections with their professors and classmates. Not only is it hard in online classes but it is also difficult to try to socialize with fellow students as a commuter. “It’s all Wham bam thank you ma’am…”, Mohamud said, as it seems that the only class opportunities to formally interact with fellow first years were in her FY-SEM class.

Mohamud also agreed that she is missing her key first-year experience as a college student. Events like “Adopt-a-Plant” had sanitary messes that started with great intentions. Mohamud’s solution to this lack of socializing would be to have interactive book discussions based on the first-year Common Read with groups formed from students in other FYSEM classes, in order to get to know one another. 

However, from a resident’s perspective, Nikolas Fischer disagrees about having a hard time socializing with fellow students. Since he lives on campus, Fischer has not had as much of a hard time getting to meet other students . Fischer agrees that there are some social events and activities he does feel that he is missing out on. “I feel that I am missing out on parties but it’s not like I am going to die without them. I’m going to very much be okay and I would rather not have parties then kill my grandma because I gave her coronavirus,” Fischer said. Fischer’s real concern is mostly with the costly tuition that weighs onall Hamline students. 

“However, I do not believe that I should have paid the amount of money that I did with almost all of my classes online. That is not the college experience I had paid for,” Fischer said. He says that college is getting more expensive as we head into the future and that tuition should be lowered if we are not gaining the full experience for the amount we are paying for. Fischer does somewhat agree on the challenges virtual learning has offered. “Online classes make it easier to be a bad student. It’s not impossible,” Fischer said. 

Zachary Verdick, a first year student, has had a different experience. “It’s very hard to start conversations now with everyone wearing masks and everything, but a lot of people are going out of their way to join others in group chats,” Verdick said. It seems thatmost students have decided that the digital approach was a safer option. Yet there are key things, such as seeing a person’s face, that make it a bit difficult at times to socialize digitally. There is a key understanding that although Hamline is doing its best, there are some other aspects of campus life during COVID-19 that still need improvement.