The class of 2024 is having one of the most unique freshman experiences ever to be recorded in history. On July 29, President Isiaah Crawford sent out an email letting the entire student body and community know that we were going to be virtual during the fall semester. The school had held out until the end of July to decide in hopes that we would be able to continue in-person during the fall.
When President Crawford announced that we would be going virtual, the entire semester became an unknown. The class of 2024 are having such a unique experience as freshmen that we decided to interview some of them about their daily lives as freshmen. Most of the freshmen I spoke to are at home and not on campus enjoying the usual freshman experience. Jenna Hlavaty said, “It’s not what we expected but we have to work with it.”
Eliza Koch seemed to echo the sentiment, “I’m a bit sad I’m not on campus. It’s nice to have my family though.”
Cassidy Vallin felt that this was not the best way to start off college, but that she believes that the University is trying their hardest.
“My classes are great but it’s not a great freshman experience,” Vallin said. Vallin is at home in Westminster, Colorado, living in an apartment with her two older siblings. When asked what the biggest problem they’ve run across is, Vallin shared, “My internet: My Zoom will cut out every two minutes and I end up missing half the lecture.”
We also spoke to freshman Khysa Gustafson, who is at home in San Diego. They shared that they also have had issues with Wi-Fi, though they mentioned that they do feel lucky. “Sometimes my Wi-Fi is janky at my mom’s house. I think I’m very lucky and privileged. I’m safe from fire, and corona. I’m not as vulnerable as other kids. I have a laptop, a phone, and Wi-Fi,” Gustafson said.
Even though Gustafson has shared that they have had Wi-Fi troubles, they still remain optimistic with virtual school.
The freshmen orientation was like no other orientation this year. According to Hlavaty, they enjoyed orientation. “I really liked it. I had Talia and Will. We had a great time. It was a good opportunity,” Hlavaty said. Gustafson also shared that they enjoyed orientation saying, “It was fun. I feel like I didn’t quite bond with everyone until the last meeting. My favourite part was the academic fair. I was able to meet eight professors. They were all super nice.” While Hlavaty might have enjoyed their time, other students did not share quite the same sentiment. Koch felt that even though orientation was positive, they also felt it was overwhelming. Vallin also seemed to have similar sentiments sharing that they felt orientation was long.
“A lot of being on the computer and lots of Zoom with people you don’t know. It was uncomfortable. Orientation groups were fun. It was a nice intro into academics but it was a little rough,” Vallin said.
Vallin shared that their classes were going well. They stated that their math class was really difficult and that it is hard to stay focused when the professor is lecturing. Vallin stated that they are also enjoying their seminar class, Technologies of Power, with English professor Alison Tracy Hale.
“It’s very stimulating. Our conversations happen well,” Vallin said.
Hlavaty also shared their feelings on how classes have been going, “The transition’s been good. I think we still face difficulties in discussion. As every class goes by everyone’s getting used to it.”
Many students expressed how they feel like they are missing out on the college experience in terms of interaction with peers.
“Socially, it’s rough.” Vallin said. “[The best thing] is being able to spend time with family, which is nice.”
Koch stated that they felt disappointed that we were going virtual. They felt that the virtual aspect makes it difficult to make friends.
The University of Puget Sound has to accommodate this new way of learning. When President Crawford announced that the school would be going virtual, some students felt that this announcement was made too close to the start of the school year and that it would have been nice to know earlier.
Hlavaty felt that the decision the school made came out later than they would have liked. They also felt that the school has been good about being communicative. Gustafson did not feel they were well-informed, but they don’t blame the university for that.
“This school felt disorganized and I don’t think it was done successfully, but I’m not sure it could be done successfully,” Gustafson said.
Koch said that they felt prepared, though there were moments of confusion throughout the summer. Vallin, however, did not feel prepared.
“I felt like I was in the dark,” Vallin said. “I was ready to go to Tacoma and then they switched. The switch was abrupt.”
Vallin, Gustafson, Hlavaty, and Koch had all purchased their plane tickets to come to Tacoma and they were ready to move into the dorms. Some of the students managed to get refunds or move their flights, but not everyone was able to get a refund for their plane ticket.
Despite all of the troubles that have been occurring for the students, the class of 2024 seems to be handling the new changes well. The university is doing their best to accommodate their students, and as Vallin said in their interview: “Switching to online shows me they’re thinking about their students first and foremost.”