A comparative COVID-19 college experience

Before school started many students enjoyed exploring the campus, and many activities organized by CAB. These events encouraged mask and a lot of the organizations around campus were in attendance at this event.

Emma Koehler, Staff Writer

College students and COVID-19: two things that do not mix. 

Since 2019, when COVID-19 gained momentum, college campuses have had to navigate the unknown of how to continue to provide students with a college experience. Incoming students of the 2020 and 2021 fall semesters can attest to this, with different experiences only being a year apart. 

Thinking back to the fall of 2020, set precautions and rules were in place as students returned back to school during a global pandemic. Social distancing and sanitzing alongside mask mandates was common. Fast forward to the fall of 2021 and most of these precautions are optional to students. Many college sophomores have some doubts, especially when comparing their first semester at UNI to the incoming freshmen.

“I felt like there were very few things I could do,” said sophomore and elementary education major with a minor in special education, Rylee Campbell. “I definitely did not get to have much if any bonds with teachers or classmates because we were seated far apart and group work wasn’t really a thing in any of my classes. I couldn’t really comfortably hang out with the friends I did make because every room on campus had required masks and capacity limits. Overall I did not enjoy my freshman year at college, while in a pandemic.”

Sophomore and digital media production major, Alexandria Post agreed and said, “I’ve had to overcome a lot of struggles related to mental health while being a student during the pandemic. I almost always felt overwhelmed and isolated with my classes. I felt like I was missing out on a normal college experience.”

Some freshmen still hold doubts as well, especially as precautions are up to each individual and not set as campus-wide, as before. This means many classes are at full capacity. 

“In my lecture of around 150 people, only a handful of us wear masks,” said freshman and biology major, Ruby Mitchell.

Incoming freshmen are aware of the threat of COVID-19 but are also aware that their experience is not too bad compared to the year above them. Most of their fears of the virus during their college experience today are minimal compared to what sophomores may have worried about just a year earlier. 

“At first I was worried, because I hadn’t been vaccinated, and I was unsure if other people had been vaccinated,” said freshman and psychology major, Ella Wolgamuth. “But after I got vaccinated, I was fine.”

Sophomores still hold some current fears while walking into a new academic year, especially as a new variant of COVID-19 emerges. It is hard to forget about what they went through only a year previous. 

“I am still a little skeptical about going without a mask full time but I am feeling fairly hopeful that my classmates will take responsibility and get vaccinated!” Campbell said. 

It is a comfort for both freshmen and sophomores to know that those around them are vaccinated and taking the steps to advocate for their health. The hope of continued vaccine efforts also attributes to positivity from students for the rest of the year and the rest of their time at UNI. 

“I do now look back at myself at the beginning of college with a positive attitude, I know if I can make it through online learning during a pandemic that I can do almost anything,” Post said. 

Freshman English major, Landon Haas, has similar hope stating, “I’m still kind of learning new stuff but I’m willing to try new experiences so I’m excited for it.” 

When in doubt, many think back to why they decided to come to UNI in the first place. Whether it be following in the footsteps of parents, a specific major, the atmosphere of Cedar Falls,or just on a whim, the love for UNI is shared by all.