STILL NOT NORMAL: SOPHOMORE YEAR IN A PANDEMIC

GABBY MCCOY, KNIGHT WIRE SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER

Sophomores are coming into the 2021-22 school year and still lack knowing what it’s like to really be a college student. 

Being freshmen in a pandemic didn’t give the real college experience, several Wartburg College sophomores interviewed for this story said. 

“After having a nontraditional ending to senior year [in high school], it was hard to come into college knowing that the upcoming year would not provide a true look at what college is like during a ‘normal’ year. I believe Wartburg exceeded my expectations on handling the pandemic protocols and providing opportunities even amid a global pandemic,” Ryleigh Parrack, a second-year student and resident assistant (RA) in Grossman, said.   

Last academic year, many students had issues with being so isolated as there were restrictions on dorm life and staying socially distance. Many sports and on-campus activities weren’t held so it was challenging to meet people, which is a large part of freshman year of college.   

“It was honestly really hard. There weren’t the typical activities and opportunities to meet people and get involved on campus. It was also hard mentally to manage the exception of college to the reality I was getting,” said Lauren Ulveling, a second-year.   

A big part in making this year feel normal for the freshman is Orientation Staff and Residential Life programming. Being in these positions brings challenges, even without a pandemic, students said. 

“The biggest challenge as an RA and COVID is trying to create a community in the residence halls but still keeping everyone safe and following safety procedures. We, Res Life staff, had to make changes. Floor programs changed to grab-and-go activities. Interacting with residents was now masked conversations whenever we could in passing or around campus. I am excited for the opportunities this upcoming year with the changes in protocols and safety procedures,” Parrack said.   

GAVIN FOUSTWOLLENBERG (RIGHT) SERVED AS AN ORIENTATION LEADER THIS SUMMER, DESPITE HAVING AN UNCONVENTIONAL FRESHMAN YEAR.

“I think this year we all felt different. Last year everyone was scared not only to start their new chapters of their lives but to start it in the unknown of if we would still be in school or not because of COVID-19. This year everyone knows what to do and how to do it, which made everyone less nervous and made the whole beginning of the school year a happier time,” Gavin FoustWollenberg, a second-year student and orientation leader, said.   

Last academic year, the college tried to make orientation as normal as possible. They had to change the way classes, orientation activities, and the Knighting Ceremony were held. This year went smoothly since they already knew how to navigate new students in a pandemic.  

Sophomores had two weeks at the end of their first years with no masks as coronavirus cases decreased. That change with an Aug. 23 mask mandate put in place by college officials. 

Sophomores are very hopeful for a fresh start.    

“Last year was a crazy year, and I think over the summer it was sad because we left May Term with no masks. Then over the summer it was almost scary to receive the email that we had to have masks again. But as soon as we came back to campus there was this sense of hope that we might actually have a normal year because everyone was coming back, and orientation was starting,” FoustWollenberg said.   

It is a whole different experience this year than last. There are in-person classes, on-campus activities, and more people on campus. The atmosphere on campus has noticeably shifted.  

“My hopes are that as vaccinations become more available, things will return back to normal, and I can experience the college experience I grew up hearing about,” Ulveling said. 

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