Coby Chuang | Mustang News Credit: Coby Chuang | Mustang News

First, the last semester of their senior year of high school was hijacked by the coronavirus. Then, their freshman year of college, a time usually known for the possibilities of new friendships and experiences, was replaced with Zoom meetings and social distancing. 

Student’s first year of college can already be filled with anxiety and change, however, the pandemic added an entirely new element of stress.

With almost all virtual classes, zero social events, no roommates and COVID-19 testing, many of last year’s freshmen said they feel they were robbed of one of the most anticipated moments of a young adult’s life.

One of the most quintessential parts of college is having a roommate. Due to the pandemic, Cal Poly did not allow for any shared rooms or visitors. 

Cal Poly freshmen felt lonely, but also found the bright side of not having a roommate. 

“I lived alone in the Trinity halls in South Mountain,” industrial technology and packaging sophomore Kyle Wong said. “Even though I didn’t have a roommate, living on campus was a lot of fun and I met a lot of friends while at school. Most of my friends were in my dorm and I met others through mutuals.”

Even though Cal Poly gave the option for freshmen to live on campus, some students chose to stay at home, causing campus to become even quieter. 

Freshmen who decided to stay at home had a very different experience than students who lived in the dorms. Although most students were online, those who chose to stay at home had even more difficulty making friends. 

“During classes, I didn’t talk to many people,” civil engineering sophomore Leo Juarez said. “I only talked to people if we were in group settings and if they were only consistent group settings. I only made two friends and I don’t know anyone else,” 

Juarez elected to stay at home his first year of college for financial reasons. He said he stands by his decision, however, he felt like he missed out on making friends in a dorm and being independent. 

Intramural sports are also a prime way to create friendships. When intramural sports were unable to happen due to the pandemic, it was a letdown for some freshmen. 

“The inability to play sports was a huge downside to me,” business administration sophomore Colin McCoy said. “I missed out on meeting more people in other grade levels because there were no classes or sports for any interaction to even occur.” 

Club gatherings were also not allowed in person. Meetings were held over Zoom, but some students preferred to be in person to connect with their peers. 

“The inability to get access and be part of all the great clubs was a big downside because of how much they offer,” McCoy said. “From what I have heard, they are a great way to find something you are passionate about and surround yourself with others who are equally as passionate about that exact same specialization.”

Logging onto Zoom lectures became part of the daily norm for students.

But, some students chose to not attend online classes entirely because they didn’t feel they were gaining anything from them. 

“Online classes were a mixed bag but I found that they were generally not great,” Wong said. “I actually stopped going to certain classes because I found I wasn’t learning anything.” 

McCoy also struggled with online learning which he said had none of the benefits of in person learning. 

“Online school was definitely something I never want to repeat again,” McCoy said. “Personally, learning through a screen was one of the hardest things to do. Unless you had someone you knew in one of your classes, you were pretty much on your own if you ever got stuck on a problem or a concept because there was really no way to contact anyone else in the class.”  

However, as Cal Poly plans to host the majority of classes in-person this fall, many students are looking forward to a school year that resembles a somewhat return to normalcy.

“I’m looking forward to being more hands-on in the classroom, being involved in clubs and being around students,” Juarez said. “I do feel like incoming sophomores will be like incoming freshmen because for many of us it’ll be the first time living on campus and being away from home.” 

As the class of 2024’s second year readily approaches, many incoming sophomores have high hopes that this school year will be an upgrade and a better introduction to Cal Poly for students who missed out on the traditional freshman experience.

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