Beginning a New School Year During a Pandemic

These two articles written by BMPC youth and alumni highlight their experiences as they begin their freshman year in both high school and college amid the coronavirus pandemic. Read both to better understand the recent experiences of teenagers in transition, particularly during the pandemic.

Freshman Year of High School

By Vivian Hattersley

Everyone can agree that middle school was a weird time for them and that the transition from middle school to high school was even more nerve-racking than those three long years themselves. Our expectations are high, our confidence is low, and we’re inevitably leaving behind a part of our childhood. But the reality is a little less shiny and glamorous than the movies portray it, especially when we’re in our homes staring at a too-bright computer screen all day with 20 or so little Zoom squares containing the faces of our classmates, instead of walking the halls of our high school. I think I can speak for all my fellow freshmen, and frankly, everyone, when I say we’re a little disappointed. So, what has this odd substitute for such a pivotal time in our lives been like?

The year began about a month before the initial start date, September 9, that is, for students participating in sports. The freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors all filed onto their respective courts and fields suited up in their sports gear, and of course, masks. While trying to reconnect with the friends we hadn’t seen since March, our coaches corralled us into lines to take temperatures and answer COVID-19 questions (just the basics, have you had a high fever in the past 24 hours, have you been in contact with someone exhibiting COVID symptoms, and so on). For the next month, our conditioning and practices would all be done socially distanced while wearing masks. The experience was different and off-putting at first, but everyone eventually adapted, and it almost felt normal.

Labor Day weekend eventually rolled around. As it goes every year, most of us were holed up in our rooms trying to finish (or even start) our summer work and reading assignments (at least that was the same as usual). Freshmen were desperately reading and rereading our schedules, trying to make sense of free periods, who was in our classes, and, most important, our lunch periods. After calling and texting anyone we knew who had an older sibling in the high school to ask how we determined what lunch period we had, everyone went about finding which of their friends would be with them and who they could eat with. However, the only comfort I received was that there was a slim chance that I could have my sister in my lunch period. With the least common lunchtime and no one I knew in it so far, I was honestly almost happy not to have to go back and deal with that right away.

When that first day finally came, we attended a two-hour virtual homeroom presentation about high school basics. Although boring, it helped a little bit and eased us into our first day. At the end of the school day, the consensus was that it was boring as usual but manageable. Instead of hopping on the bus or hitching a ride with an upperclassman at the end of the day, I was able to just get back into bed. My new people-watching hobby had graduated to watching as my classmates mentally checked out on Zoom classes. I was constantly trying to rest my eyes from staring at a screen all day. So, there were downsides to the whole situation. But overall, I think my school has handled these unthinkable times well, and our school setup definitely reflects that.

Life as a College Freshman Amid Coronavirus

By Alexa Elder

When I imagined going to college, I never thought it would be like this. I imagined having a college experience like everyone else who went before me. I would never have guessed in a million years that I would be embarking on my freshman year of college during a worldwide pandemic. Yet, here I am at High Point University during my fifth week of school, and college life is very different than I imagined.

When I found out that school was still going to be in person, I was the happiest person in the universe. Being at my university is a blessing during this pandemic. I have dreamed my entire life of going to college. Having ended my senior year of high school in online classes was a challenge for me. I couldn’t see my friends and teachers every day in person as I had before, and the only interaction I had with them was online.

As I was getting ready to go to college, I did not know what to expect of my freshman year. I wondered if I would be sent home after only a little while being there or if I would be able to finish my first semester in person. As the weeks counted down to my college move-in day, I grew more and more excited about starting college. I could not wait for the adventures that would come, and all the new experiences I would have.

Arriving at college for the first time was different than I ever could have imagined. When we first drove up to the entrance, we had to get our temperatures taken and show our completed health screening form before we were allowed on campus. This pandemic life is a new world we live in, I realized, and nothing was the same. Before the coronavirus, we all would have been able to move in simultaneously, with no masks and no necessary social distancing between us. Yet, that was not the case. Here I was walking into my freshman dorm wearing a mask and not even able to be near those around me.

It’s crazy to think about all the changes now taking place that never used to be a thing. Whenever we are anywhere besides our dorm room or eating, we are required to wear masks. I admit there are days when this becomes a pain, and I grow tired of wearing a mask and just do not want to have one on. However, I know this is only one of the many necessities for us to stay on campus. Numerous universities have already sent their students home. I am fortunate to still be at school, and I will take any precautions necessary to make sure it stays that way.

Another change that I am not used to is social distancing. Now that I am at college, it is a constant reminder in my head and visible all around me. There are markings on the floor to remind us where to stand in line and signs everywhere telling us to keep six feet apart. The classrooms have made this a new challenge for me to overcome. As I imagined my first year of college, I saw myself talking with other students who sat around me and being able to make friends that way. Yet that is not the case anymore. All the classrooms have students distanced six feet apart, and it is to the point where I cannot talk to anyone around me.

It is not just the change in classrooms that are different, but also college life in general. To eat, we now have to pre-order our food and make reservations for the dining halls. There are no longer any sporting events going on. Any activities on campus are currently online, and half the usual activities are not happening anymore. To say the least, college life is different than it used to be. Last year at this time, I never would have pictured myself going through any of this today. 

Nonetheless, this is the new world we are living in. I know I will get used to these changes, even if it is hard. As I look around at my life on campus now, it is not perfect by any means. Having all these precautions in place can be difficult sometimes, especially while trying to get used to college life in general. Yet, these precautions have allowed my university to still have in-person classes. Without all these changes, I would be sitting at home doing online school. I am so fortunate that I am able to be at High Point University and attend my classes in person and to be able to live on campus. While my freshman year of college is different than I imagined, it is still happening, and I will try to make the most of it, no matter what.