This semester brings an abnormal college experience for freshmen

Freshmen struggle to make connections amid the pandemic

The option to resume in-person classes and live in residence halls attracted first-year students desperate for a sense of normalcy and something at least reminiscent of a typical freshman year.

But with guidelines limiting the number of students allowed in a dorm, elevator, lounge or classroom, and most events and classes being offered virtually, the class of 2024 faces a unique challenge: socializing amid a global pandemic.

“It’s definitely been a shock,” said Ellie Goeringer, a freshman studying nursing. “I did not think so many of my classes would be on Zoom, it’s just so different. Most of us are kind of confined to the building, so I did not expect this at all. It’s hard.”

While classes have traditionally been a convenient and simple way to meet people and make new friends, this year’s freshman class is not afforded that same opportunity. 

Classrooms can only operate at 50% of their maximum capacity to maintain social distancing. And even when students are given the chance to attend class in person, reaching out to peers can still be challenging.

“When you’re in a class, and a bunch of people show up in person, you kind of meet some people, but it’s harder to feel close to them because we physically can’t be close to them, and you’re not sure how comfortable people are,” said Meg Sarbacker, a freshman studying public service and public policy.

Socializing in dorms presents a different set of challenges. President Michael Crow announced Monday residence halls would move to housing mode three, which stated only one guest from the same hall could be in a room at a time. 

“Some kids are just in their room sitting there, and you don’t know whether to knock on the door or not," Goeringer said. "Whenever you see kids it’s kind of fleeting, so I just feel like everyone is kind of isolated. It’s hard to form a connection—it’s kind of a superficial thing.”

Sarbacker said that without large events or in-person events for certain clubs or organizations, "it’s harder to find people you are connected with interests.”

Despite these challenges, freshmen are still trying to make the best of their time and meet as many people as safe as possible.

“Me and my friends have made our own fun,” Sam Nuzzaci, a freshman studying communications, said. “We hang out with our friends from our dorm in the common area and sometimes, we get together to play Uno.”  

Lounges need to be reserved by appointment, a restriction implemented before the year began.

While there aren’t as many opportunities for students to socialize on campus or in residence halls, some have been looking to off-campus events as a way to get out and make friends. 

“Last Saturday, there was a farmer’s market really close, so there’s some opportunities like that,” Sarbacker said. Nuzzaci said she and her friends have been enjoying the many local hiking trails the Tempe area has to offer as a way to get out of their dorms.

Goeringer said that although the current situation "definitely sucks," there isn't a way "it could realistically be changed," adding that "the only other alternative is to be at home."

Although the year might not be what she had in mind, Sarbacker said she is confident in her decision to live on campus despite limitations due to the pandemic.

“It’s been a great experience meeting people still, it’s just not quite the traditional college experience,” Sarbacker said. “I still would’ve made the same decision (to come to campus) had I been able to peek into the future.”

Reach the reporter at and follow @meredithbushman on Twitter. 

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