Freshman’s Abnormal Transition from High School to College Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

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By: Annelise Taylor, Loyola Sophomore

The transition from high school to college. A memorable experience of exciting new beginnings, meeting new people, and the next step to becoming an adult. For the senior class of 2020, this experience was jeopardized due to COVID. Thankfully, schools like Loyola University Chicago have made efforts in trying to save this experience as best, and as safe as they can.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Loyola freshman, Leah Smith, who has recently traveled from Columbus, Ohio to attend her second semester of college at Loyola. Smith recently moved into Francis Hall and has the opportunity to attend classes in-person. Smith is majoring in Engineering and Pre-Med, with a number of core classes on top of that. 

Life in the eyes of a freshman entering college during a global pandemic is a quite different experience that most have never, and will never, encounter. Smith recognizes these unfortunate times and explains that she never felt closure from high school. 

Schools like Loyola have had to brainstorm protocols and regulations for dorm life that may seem odd or excessive. Smith understands the precautions that are needed to be taken but also can’t help but wish that she was able to have more of a social life, or at least be able to see her hometown friend in the neighboring dorm. Wearing a mask on an empty campus, keeping distance in a dorm room, and waiting in line for a shower can get old, fast. 

Despite the situation, Smith remains optimistic about how Loyola is going about its testing system and regulations. She has recently been able to reach out to other freshmen in the dorms and socialize after a long period of time stuck at home with cabin fever. Smith is excited for what her future years at Loyola will consist of. 

*interview has been edited for length and clarity

Annelise Taylor: Tell me about your first semester taking classes from home.

Leah Smith: It was definitely interesting. I live with just my parents at home so, we live in a smaller house too so it’s definitely a little bit of cabin fever. Most of my friends were off at college so that was a little hard exploring first semester of college classes, and being stuck at home. I got through it, I ended up doing okay in my classes so it wasn’t too bad. 

Taylor: A lot of freshmen decided to finish the rest of this year online and from home. What prompted you to come to campus for the spring semester?

Smith: I definitely wanted to just get away and have a new setting; wanted to start meeting new people. I felt like I didn’t want to miss my entire freshman year. I wanted some sort of a normal freshman experience as much as I could get.

Taylor: Did you feel safe moving to the dorms and having in-person classes with Loyola’s COVID-19 testing system?

Smith: Yes, I feel overly safe. Knowing within a couple of days if I’m positive or negative is really reassuring. Knowing if people I’m going to meet up with are negative within the past day or two is really nice to know. And my in-person class is nice, were spaced out but it’s still nice to get the classroom feel. 

Taylor: What were some of your biggest concerns with attending college amidst a pandemic?

Smith: Honestly, safety-wise, I wasn’t too concerned. I know I stay safe, and I felt like Loyola was doing what it needed to do to keep everyone safe so we could stay on campus. I guess most of my concerns are how I knew it wasn’t going to be a normal semester but was hoping I wouldn’t wish I was staying at home. There is some risk staying at a college campus during a pandemic, but I was just cornered that I had made the wrong decision… but I don’t think I did.

Taylor: Has there been anything that has not met your freshman year expectations due to the pandemic?

Smith: I haven’t been here that long enough. I mean socially obviously, it’s expected to be difficult. We’re still only allowed to be within our own dorm, and only one person masked in a room is the rule. I know a lot of people are going off-campus to do things which I think is kind of backfiring, but it’d be nice to be able to go at least into another dorm. I understand the mask, I understand the limited persons, but l have one friend in Simpson Hall and I can’t really go see him. I understand it, so I can’t really complain.  

Taylor: What challenges did you face with the transition from high school to college?

Smith: I think the biggest [challenge] would be… well I’m still in the middle of it. Definitely going from online back into in-person because l feel like my attention span has definitely taken a beating. And not getting overwhelmed from now being in a city, seeing people all the time. That’s been a challenge rebalancing and having a schedule again. 

Taylor: How did you overcome these challenges?

Smith: Right now I’m just putting my best foot forward. I’m doing my best to meet new people, I’m going to lunch with people from my floor that I haven’t met or talked to very much, and trying to catch up with school. [I’m] keeping myself on a schedule, going to the I.C. when I know I need to get stuff done. [I’m] keeping a positive attitude about everything. I can’t control everything, obviously as we’ve learned there’s a lot out of our control. 

Taylor: How do you feel about your future years to come at Loyola?

Smith: I’m excited. I’m especially excited about sophomore year because hopefully with the vaccine things will get a lot better, safer, and not as strict. I’m excited to be in the city, I’m excited once things open up again. Right now it’s the dead of winter, so it’ll be nice when I’m on campus during nicer weather- that’s something I’m looking forward to.

For more information on Loyola University Chicago’s COVID-19 updates, visit https://www.luc.edu/coronavirus/ 

For Loyola University Chicago’s protocol returning to campus, visit https://www.luc.edu/returntocampus/

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