Freshman year of college is a crazy experience. It is a time when you are on your own, practicing your independence and meeting a countless number of new faces. There is already enough to be stressed about but imagine also having the COVID-19 pandemic linger over it all.
This year’s University of Arizona freshman class was already robbed of half of its junior year and almost all of its senior year of high school. The thing many of us wished for the most was being able to have the normal freshman experience when we arrived at college.
Because of the vaccines, we were lucky to be able to attend in-person classes and participate in numerous different social events. But the strict rules around masks and the aftermath of receiving a frightening positive COVID-19 test were still alive and well, especially in the dorms.
I remember the concern I had before moving into my room in Likins Residence Hall. I wondered how severe the mask mandate would be and if the common rooms would be open. What if no one comes out of their room to socialize? Will I even make friends?
All of these fears went out the window the second I stepped in the building and felt the warm sense of community from the desk assistants, resident assistants and other students in the dorm.
Kate Pellegrini, a pre-nursing freshman, said that she was worried there would be very strict rules in the dorms.
“I had heard they were really strict the year before us, so I honestly had no idea what to expect,” Pellegrini said.
After moving in, Pellegrini agreed that it was not as bad as it could have been.
“I feel like no one actually enforced the rules, but maybe that’s good because my experience felt normal … I don’t think I really missed out on anything," she said.
I think a lot of freshmen felt this way. At first, we were glad no one was forcing us to follow protocol, but for some students, things changed very quickly. Pellegrini ended up being sent to the UA COVID-19 isolation dorms right around Thanksgiving.
“It felt so lonely. They gave us food, but it was terrible, and I couldn’t interact with anyone. The only person I saw the entire time was my random roommate, it was horrible,” Pellegrini said.
For college freshmen, this was an experience unlike any other. Imagine being able to move into college like normal, attend normal classes, hang out with your friends every single day and then suddenly you are completely shut out from the outside world for 10 days in a dorm room that isn’t yours.
The rules kept changing. I felt like I never fully understood what I was supposed to be doing because sometimes the protocol was enforced but sometimes it wasn’t.
Ana Martinez, an RA at Likins, said she understood the confusion us freshmen felt by the ever-changing information we were receiving.
“I feel like there are a lot of things people tell freshmen that is supposed to be advice, but in the context of the pandemic, it doesn’t really apply," Martinez said.
It was also challenging coming from the full lockdown we were experiencing senior year. With all the independence we have in college, it’s harder to remember that the pandemic is still going on and we need to continue to keep ourselves and others safe.
Martinez said that the COVID-19 protocols in the dorms were hard to keep consistent at times.
“It’s one of those things where after a certain point you can’t really enforce it. For example, the rule with how many people can be in your room at a time, people just sneak a huge group in and close the door, so there’s nothing you can really do about that," Martinez said.
Because this year’s freshman class had missed out on so much of its high school experience, many of us were going to do anything to make the most out of our first year in college.
Looking back on how this year went, there was a lot of uncertainty and confusion, but it was still an amazing freshman year. The social connection everyone was able to make from being back on campus is something we should all be thankful for.
The University of Arizona feels like home and not even the pandemic can change that.
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Isabelle Freguia is a freshman at the University of Arizona majoring in journalism with a public relations minor. She is originally from Seattle, Washington but moved to La Quinta, California over the summer. She is very passionate about writing and hopes to work for a fashion magazine one day.