By Evan Madden || Contributing Writer
While the start of the fall semester is often a blend of nerve-wracking and exciting for incoming freshmen, the spring is when freshmen traditionally return more confident and truly settle into their college community. Most first-years at F&M, however, will be completing the rest of the year in remote instruction as part of the college’s plan to de-densify campus in response to COVID-19.
The plan for sophomores to remain home for the fall, and for freshmen to depart in the spring was announced in early August, with the hope being that everyone who wanted to return would be able if conditions improved. Unfortunately, those hopes seem optimistic in hindsight given the current public health situation in the Lancaster area, which has forced the campus to remain de-densified.
Many first-years like myself, who were able to experience life on campus in the fall, albeit in a socially distanced environment, are adjusting to the differences that come with switching to remote learning. Most express similar sentiments, lamenting the distance now between them and their friends from F&M, as well as their other friends who are also away at college. freshman Nimai Shukla commented, “On campus there were some events going on and there were always people I could link up with, but at home there’s much less to do when I have free time.”
Following the national trend, many students also feel that being remote has a noticeable impact on their ability to stay focused and motivated academically, especially within the pace of the Module system. Maayan Shahaar remarked, “It’s hard to stay energized when having 8 A.M. classes within the module system this semester means I get a lot less sleep.”
Outside of the classroom, most student organizations have been able to adapt their activities to virtual or hybrid models which can accommodate students off campus. F&M’s Panhellenic Community is an example of one such group, with sororities accepting new members through a virtual recruitment process this January. Unfortunately some activities, like athletics, cannot be translated into a virtual format so easily. Tyler Cruz commented, “I’m happy to be safe, but at the same time, I miss the camaraderie of being on the football team and being able to practice with my teammates in person.”
Addressing the Class of 2024 and their families in a virtual town hall, President Barbara Altman spoke to the importance of maintaining community and support for students regardless of physical location. She reassured first-years that older students, professors, and professional staff remain just as committed to fostering their emotional, social and academic growth this semester.
First-year President Maverick Irwin encouraged freshmen not to let opportunities for continued engagement in the community pass them by, saying, “The best thing you can do is stay connected.” One step F&M has taken to keep students studying remotely engaged with college events and extracurriculars beyond the classroom is the new Diplomats Presence website, where opportunities to stay involved on and off campus will be posted. Another is mindfulness programming being held every week to promote student wellness during these stressful times.
This may not be the situation anyone wanted or expected for their first spring in college, but many people within the student body and faculty at F&M are working tirelessly to make this time the best it could possibly be for us. They are urging students to continue to take advantage of these opportunities and stay connected wherever they are.
First Year Evan Madden is a Contributing Writer. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.