Entering college during a global pandemic is not at all what I or many others had envisioned. Who would have guessed that wearing masks everywhere, taking almost all online classes and having limited social interaction would be the new norm?

For first year students this year, it unfortunately is the norm. College life during a pandemic is all we know, and I for one was incredibly blind and unprepared for what college would be like, let alone with new rules and regulations.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has done a wonderful job ensuring the safety of all students while doing their best to replicate a typical college experience. However, we did have to miss out on regular incoming freshmen activities and events. 

As an attempt to compensate for this, I think the university should include current freshmen in incoming freshman activities next fall.

One of the best UNL experiences is joining with all the freshmen at Memorial Stadium to be welcomed to the school and into the next part of our life. This was unfortunately not able to happen due to the COVID-19 regulations, which I thought was especially a bummer. In the fall, current freshmen have our own “Big Red Welcome” apart from the incoming freshmen. It’s a chance for us to truly feel a part of the university, and also be able to recognize some faces on campus. 

2020-2021 freshmen missed out on in-person club and activity fairs, which are a great chance for students to learn about and get involved in sports clubs, intramurals and academic organizations. Many organizations noticed a decline in new members. One organization that saw a lack of new recruitment is Greek life. Sorority rushing took place over Zoom, causing many to decide not to rush in the first place or to drop out. Having more events to promote these clubs and organizations next fall will be incredibly beneficial and would trigger a surge of underclassmen involvement on campus.

Aside from big events, our class missed out on a fundamental freshman experience — giant lecture halls. Being forced to sit shoulder-to-shoulder in a room of 100-plus students is an opportunity to talk to new people, make friends and get comfortable in college classes. 

In-person classes in general were also incredibly sparse due to COVID-19. We weren’t able to meet with professors in-person and develop close ties with them, which would allow us an advantage later down the road. Having regular contact with professors puts a name to your face and offers a more personal connection.

Honestly, I’m still not exactly sure what regular college classes are like. Having to sit six feet apart, which is too much distance for conversations with classmates, and listening to the professor teach a mumbled lecture through their mask is definitely not favorable. 

Of course, trying to initiate more larger-sized classes for sophomores would only be possible depending on if the current situation in the United States improves at all. Normal life can only  proceed depending on the dispersion of the COVID-19 vaccine and ensuring that safety protocols continue to be followed. It’s all just a matter of waiting and seeing how much we will have progressed by the fall of 2021. 

I certainly did not expect us to still be wearing masks and social distancing nearly a year after the pandemic began. Keeping with whatever protocols will be in place this fall, I would love to be able to partake in certain events that we missed out on. I am incredibly grateful that I was still able to attend my first year of college; it has definitely been an experience I will never forget. 

Emerson McClure is a freshman Journalism and Advertising and Public Relations major. Reach her at emersonmcclure@dailynebraskan.com