Second-Year Setbacks: “We Don’t Feel Like Sophomores”

By Sarah Nicell || Campus Life Editor

Photo Courtesy of Franklin & Marshall College.

After virtual high school graduations, virtual college orientations, virtual classes, and (you guessed it) virtual extracurriculars, Franklin & Marshall’s Class of 2024 is finally here to stay (hopefully). For their freshmen year, they were welcomed to campus with a hybrid zoom/in-person experience, spending a considerable chunk of that time in their college house dorms due to repeated quarantines. Just as soon as the class began to assimilate to F&M culture, they were sent home for Thanksgiving to never return…until now.

So how does the Class of 2024 feel about finally being on campus, taking in-person classes, and participating in clubs with real, physical, unmuted people?

Apparently, these sophomores feel a bit like freshmen.

“I don’t feel like I’ve experienced enough college to be a sophomore,” Ellie Bourghi, a current sophomore who was entirely virtual last fall and spring, told me. “Being here in person is a complete 180.”

This sentiment seems to reverberate through the Class of 2024, most in consensus that they feel lost in that uncomfortable gray area between newbies and returners. When it comes to finding buildings, aiding the actual freshmen, and understanding what Lancaster is all about, this particular group notices an imbalance between expectations of them and their lived college experience.

Kate McBride is a House Advisor and the Co-Chancellor of Bonchek College House, as well as an active member of the sophomore class. Following her start in the aforementioned roles this fall, her comprehension of these duties was entirely dependent on how hard she worked to mitigate her unfamiliarity with F&M.

“I feel this year, having the HA position, that I’m experiencing Imposter Syndrome,” Kate explained. “Even though everyone who is hiring me felt as though I was qualified to have the position…I can’t help but feel as though I’m not being as helpful as I could be.”

How can a person with the experience of a freshman navigate the role of mentoring freshmen? In August, House Advisor training included a campus scavenger hunt in an effort to help new leaders develop a sense of understanding of the college, but even so, the inevitable restrictions imposed on the class in 2020 certainly impaired something. Whether that something is familiarity, attachment, or hope of success at F&M, I am not sure.

Feeling the responsibility of a sophomore while possessing the experience of a freshman creates definitive problems for the entire school, especially when sophomores fulfill leadership roles that force them to advise younger students. As a member of the Class of 2024 myself, I feel that I am learning new things about the college every single day. While it is a wonderful thing to be constantly expanding my knowledge, it is simultaneously disheartening to realize that my understanding (and misunderstanding) of F&M may impair my ability to help others and myself.

Certainly, every class year is feeling the weight of responsibility being significantly greater than their experience, and a universal resentment for COVID-19 does not aid this imbalance. 

“Definitely feeling like this as well as a junior. I had a rough first year and then [had] half of sophomore year online,” said Emma Lenz-Mann, who is in her third year now at F&M. “I fully feel like a sophomore. There was barely even a college experience last year for everyone.”

If domestic students are experiencing this kind of disillusionment with their liberal arts education, international students are faced with an even larger obstacle. Sofia Netto, a sophomore from Brazil and copy editor for The College Reporter, spent the fall semester of her freshman year in Bath, England. She described Bath as extremely walkable because everything was “all in one building, always.”

This made the adjustment to a somewhat larger area in the middle of nowhere, USA, particularly difficult. In attempting to find the vaccination site on College Ave, as well as Brooks College House for the first time, Sofia expressed that she was “feeling super lost.” She elaborated upon confusions regarding Lancaster City and class locations and shared a general sense of exhaustion:

“I don’t know about you,” she prompted, “but I always feel tired.”

This, if anything, is universal among us all.

On the bright side, Sophomore Reorientation provided students the opportunity to get to know their college just a little bit better, as well as bond with their peers at Hershey Park. While I am not sure that this experience perfectly amended the discomfort of the Class of 2024, it certainly offered some relief from the seemingly lightning speed at which college has flown by in the era of COVID-19.

“Now that it’s been a few weeks,” Ellie finalized, “I’m feeling more comfortable and less like a fish out of water.”

As the fall semester climbs into its fourth week, it seems that perhaps sophomores are learning how to handle the immense responsibility that accompanies returning to a place they never really knew to begin with.

Sarah Nicell is a sophomore and the Campus Life Editor for The College Reporter. Their email is snicell@fandm.edu.

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