By Jax Dieugenio
On a humid August morning, incoming freshmen at the College opened their emails to find a long-awaited message from President Foster. In the midst of the pandemic, the College chose to follow a remote-only learning path, enacting strict regulations and preventing students from attending class in person.
Incoming freshmen were forced to attend their first year at the College from their bedrooms.
“I feel like it definitely was not the ideal situation for anyone involved,” said Jan Eagan, a freshman political science major. “However, we are doing everything that we can to make the most of it and I'm proud to be a member of this campus community.”
Many freshmen students like Morella were nervous when faced with a virtual semester, fearing that they would not be able to fully embrace what it means to be a college student in the midst of an unrecognizable first semester at the College.
“A lot of my friends from my hometown were at college for the fall semester, so it sucked not having them around,” said Juliana Morella, a freshman speech pathology major.
After a rather unique finale to their senior year of high school, many incoming freshmen were eager to claim their long-sought independence, finally leaving home for college.
In the face of adversity, a brand new learning format, and an exciting new chapter of their lives, the freshmen class had no choice but to adapt.
“Despite not being on campus my first semester has been going okay, but I wish that I could get involved more within the campus community,” Alexa Giacoio, a freshman communication studies major, said. “I believe that this virtual education fits the mold of my major because being a communication studies major has allowed me to explore lots of opportunities virtually.”
Morella, trying to gain a sense of normalcy, discovered ways to manage the social aspect of college life while online. She has tried to make the most of the semester while being at home by visiting campus and safely meeting people that are going to the College.
One of the challenging aspects of virtual learning is how the learning format adheres to some majors better than others.
“Media communication is very important in today's day and age. The virtual environment has not impeded my progress in any way,” Giacoio said.
Eagan believes that virtual education has been better for his major. As a political science major, he does not need to be in labs or do a lot of math outside of statistics, so the writing-based work that he has been doing can be done virtually.
Although some freshmen have been prospering in an online environment, others have been struggling.
“I feel that my major doesn’t mold well with virtual education,” Morella said. “I felt that I missed out on a lot of opportunities and also hands-on experiences in order to help me become more knowledgeable and educated.”
Loss of motivation is a commonality amongst college students during a virtual education.
“I feel virtual education has definitely made it more difficult to learn and stay motivated,” said Ryan Lin, a freshman undeclared major in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Many freshmen students have experienced a sense of loss in the social aspect of college. Virtually joining clubs, honor societies, fraternities, sororities and simply making friends has proven to be challenging.
“I am a very social person, so being alone during virtual classes has impeded my progress in transitioning to college; however, we are all in similar situations so the freshman class has been able to come together and still manage to form a solid community,” said Eagan.
Looking forward to the possibilities of next semester with the Spring Flex plan, Eagan is hopeful that he will be able to see the friends he has made in person and take a step toward transitioning into a normal college environment.
“I am looking forward to being on campus, but only if it is safe,” Lin said. “Either way, I am looking forward to continuing my journey here at TCNJ.”