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The New Freshman Experience: Beginning College During a Pandemic

Written and edited by Lily Journey and Hannah Dilanchyan, photographed by Kate Bomar, designed by Tabby Bernardus (Contributions by: Gretchen Ferguson)

Less than a year ago Biola University’s sunny campus buzzed with the constant activity of students living and learning in community. Daily traditions like studying with friends at Common Grounds, passing the well-known Jesus mural or grabbing breakfast before attending a chapel service were normal parts of the Biola experience. But now the ringing of the Biola bells is just a faint memory replaced by the chime of a computer notification. 

COLLEGE COMMITMENTS: A LEAP OF FAITH 

by Kate Bomar

Because COVID-19 swept through our nation during the peak of college tours and commitments, many high school seniors found themselves making monumental life decisions without ever stepping foot on campus. They had to utilize tools such as the school’s website and random YouTube videos to determine which school would be the right fit for them. 

“With all the schools shut down, it made my decision really hard because I didn’t even know what the campus looked like,” said Maddy Meadows, freshman journalism major.  

Students had to take a leap of faith when it came to committing to their universities. Traditionally, students are able to meet and chat with professors, participate in class visits and dine in the cafeteria. A closed campus due to a pandemic completely changed this, so students had to trust their gut. 

RETHINKING A COMMUNITY 

While Biolans across all years and majors feel immense losses, the freshmen class of 2020 face a unique set of challenges since their college community is entirely remote. One of the most obvious challenges is meeting new friends.

“I do think everyone is longing for a sense of community but especially freshmen,” said Abigail Lewman, who has been mentoring freshmen in her role as a Resident Adviser. “From a leadership side, I’ve seen freshmen wanting to get more involved than other grades.”

A pivotal season during freshman year is the early moments of establishing yourself and finding friends who can build you up. Biola has a beautiful, vibrant community of students—so how can these freshmen form relationships remotely? 

by Tabby Bernardus

UNEXPECTED RESILIENCE
Fortunately, the isolation of computer screens and coronavirus regulations haven’t completely ruined the college experience for this year’s freshmen. 

“I have been able to meet new friends and hangout with a couple of them,” said Cole Gorham, a freshman business administration major. “I started reaching out to people in my Zoom classes and talking to them.” Gorham shared that while it was difficult in the beginning, things are starting to look better. 

“Some of them have found Biola communities where they live,” said junior RA Lilah Benkhe. Though many of the freshmen aren’t able to interact with others face-to-face, they have been attending events that Benhke and other staffers continue to host virtually each week. With weekly events hosted by Residential Advisors, plus clubs and groups called “Huddles” offered via the Biola app launched this semester, students have found ways to plug into the unusual community. 

“I’ve noticed that freshmen have been really appreciative of what the leadership groups on campus have done to build that community for them,” Lewman added. 

While the challenges brought on by this semester have been undeniably difficult, freshmen—and the upperclassmen guiding them through the transition—continue to find creative ways to adapt.

By Kate Bomar

ADAPTING AND OVERCOMING: A NEW NORMAL

Starting college can be one of the scariest moments in someone’s life. To do all of this in the midst of a pandemic is no easy task. The events of 2020 have totally rewritten many of the traditional ideas of students’ entrance into college and into adulthood. Many freshmen are left grasping for some sense of normalcy within remote learning. These students have had to adapt to the strangest of circumstances. Because of their flexibility and perseverance, these students will change higher education forever. 

 

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