As I walked across the stage to receive my high school diploma back in July, I truly believed I was prepared for my freshman year of college. What I wasn’t prepared for was a freshman year amidst a global pandemic.
Despite our years of hard work we hoped would pay off to make us successful college students, our freshman class has been struggling to maintain motivation to continue our education.
We were warned that adjusting to life away from our parents would be difficult. But we were not warned of the loneliness, anxiety and depression that being in college during a pandemic would bring us.
With the lack of social interaction because of the pandemic, it has been incredibly difficult to meet people and form connections. I’ve dreamed of attending a four-year university, and I’ve dreamed of meeting my people here. However, there are three weeks left of my first semester of college, and unfortunately, I have yet to find my crowd here at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Our generation is already socially isolated enough with the use of social media. This is the time in our lives where we are supposed to be getting out and engaging with each other even more, and with a pandemic, the social isolation has only grown.
It’s safe to say that COVID-19 has brought forth a lot of uncertainty in our lives. I can guarantee that if you would’ve told a high school senior last year that we would’ve been navigating college through Zoom and never meeting any of our classmates in person amidst a pandemic this year, we wouldn’t have believed you. A year ago our class was hopeful. We were flying by senior year, counting down the days we stepped foot on campus.
While I’ve personally had pretty good structure in most of my classes so far, some of my peers have had to deal with the task of teaching themselves in their classes. As a first-time college student who has left the comfort of the K-12 teaching structure, teaching ourselves a college course is a lot to be asked of us.
Upholding any desire to remain at our universities has been something that our freshman class has had to do at an even greater level. College is hard, that’s not a secret, but with less social interaction than we’re used to, and adjusting to the difficulty of classes, there’s been a tremendous loss of motivation from my peers and other first-time college students across the country.
As first-time college students, this is not what we expected, and this isn’t what we hoped for. So to also pay full tuition for these online classes where we are being asked to teach ourselves the material is also completely outrageous. While I understand that universities do have a lot of expenses to pay for, asking students to pay full tuition for their online courses is not necessarily helping out students in these unprecedented times.
The lack of motivation for many of my peers also shows up when there is great uncertainty about what the next semester will look like, or even the next academic year. While UNL plans to welcome students back on campus and in the dorms next semester, other surrounding universities lack a plan of return. I spoke with freshman Abbey Dittmer who attends the University of Nebraska-Kearney, and her response when I asked her what UNK was doing next semester was worrisome.
The student informed me that the university actually didn’t even have a plan of return after their Thanksgiving break. Not only do they not have a plan for next semester, but they don’t have a plan for Thanksgiving break. With this break being just weeks away, it is not fair to not provide a plan of return to students. We, as students, are handing over a large amount of money to these universities to attend, just so they can leave several students with uncertainty.
While UNL has a plan of return for the spring semester, the options of what we can do during the two months of winter break leave some students — including myself — at a disadvantage. Although most of us have a place we call home and get to go back to during breaks, I do not.
There is no room for me in my parents’ two-bedroom mobile home. And with the $900 fee to remain on campus over break, I’ve been left to figure out where I will be couch surfing for the next two months.
As first-time college students — attending during a pandemic — we have been asked to do far more than one can mentally handle. We are feeling more alone than ever, more stressed than ever, more confused than ever, and it’s left us with such little motivation to keep pushing through.
With three weeks left in this semester, our freshman class should be nothing less than proud of themselves for what we’ve done. We have done what hasn’t been done in over a century — we’ve done our first semester of college during a global pandemic.
Evelyn Mejia is a freshman broadcast journalism major. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.