As the tide slowly turns against the coronavirus pandemic, the first-year members of the KSC community are looking back on the damage left behind, and to the brighter future.
To label the last academic year as “hard” or “difficult” would not go far enough to do it justice.
Every class, including college staff and faculty, have suffered in some right. Seniors lost much of the grandeur of their graduation, and sophomores and juniors got boarded up.
But this spotlight rests on the newest faces in the neighborhood. With the onset of COVID-19, the college experience for incoming first-year students was strikingly not as it was advertised. Shanti Silverstein spared no expense in expressing what she had initially hoped, as she’d believed that “It might… you know, be fun,” immediately referencing the widespread disintegration of typical college activities such as parties and club events. “It was nothing like what you’d see in the movies.” Other first-year students, such as Sasha Drakoulakos, also hopped on this bandwagon. “I wanted to interact with other beings of life,” she summarized with a shrug and a nod, concluding that she was “Excited to go, before it all went sideways.” As for Zach Keenan, he’d generally been looking for “a more vibrant social scene,” throughout campus.
But alas, a worldwide pandemic does present quite a significant obstacle. As such, they had to adapt to the ever-changing environment as the community sought ways to work around the virus– remote learning through Zoom, masking up around the clock, and everything else in between. Drakoulakos wasn’t the fondest of some of the changes, as she explained,” I’d have to wear a mask to go three-feet down the hall at 1 a.m.,” whereas no other human life would be present.
Silverstein leaned more towards the differences in academics than her counterparts. “Classes were harder. It seemed like there was more homework,” she said, all before looking at the grander scale of the COVID experience. “It’s supposed to be… a balance of academics and social life, and the social life was just gone.”
Attempts were made to contact the Interim Provost Ockle Johnson, to get an opinion from the college’s perspective of it all, but no connection was ever made.
As for the students, however, their voices were more than abundant. Out of everyone spoken to, they all collectively voiced that this year certainly wasn’t as good an experience as it could have been. As Silverstein put it as bluntly and politely as possible; “Well, it kinda sucked.” When it came to being upset about it, however, there was a little bit of a split. Some individuals were less resentful than others, such as Vincent Hargreaves.
“We were fortunate to be here,”Hargreaves asserted, citing that the regulations were to ensure students could be on-campus at all– to avoid large outbreaks such as the early ones at the University of Georgia and [University of] Alabama, or even closer to home such as UNH. “Teachers also seemed to be more flexible with us,” he continued.
“It was good that they were understanding and made things a little easier for us.” Zach Keenan was sided with Vincent as well, sharing a similar resigned mentality. “The college didn’t invent COVID. It was out of their control and they did the best they could,” he answered, taking a stoical stance. From what was gathered, this fact was collectively supported despite the mixed emotions. With the semester drawing to a close, the vast majority have put their struggles behind them and accepted things for how they are, as opposing them would bring more harm than good.
One can’t politely ask a century pandemic to just go away. But for now, it appears humanity is gaining the upper hand on the road to normalcy. For the individuals surveyed, the idea was presented; if the campus went to a full reopening next semester, what did they want to see?
From here, the answers were far and wide, ranging from improving the food, to having friends over without feeling threatened. But there was a common overlying theme; a return of the status quo, and a reopened sense of social normalcy. The collective aim of the first-year community appears to lie in finally obtaining the cherished college experience that had been snuffed out from under them over this last year.
There is strong optimism in our newest faces as they look to the future. And, if progress against COVID-19 continues further, those hopes and dreams may very well come true.
Jackson Kulacz can be contacted at: