A Unique Start To College

Photo taken by Sydney McGuire.

Cassandra Matthews ~ Assistant Editor

     The class of 2024 at the University of Lynchburg is slowly adjusting to college life in the midst of a pandemic. 

     Every year, freshmen have to juggle living away from home for the first time, making new friends, and doing well in their classes. This year, freshmen are doing all of that while navigating the challenges that COVID-19 imposes. 

     Ryan Pulaski,  an art major and member of the Westover Honors College, said that he did notice how there are not as many events occurring on campus as he would expect there to be if there was not a pandemic. He said that Westover was not able to go on the retreat that the program has every year for its freshmen, though they are still doing other activities. 

     “I know this last Saturday they went to Yoders’ Farm. I was unable to go, but I am going with Westover on a sunrise hike next Saturday and I’m very excited for that. They have been really trying to get us active [and there has] been a lot of stuff in conjunction with [the Outdoor Leadership Program]. Sometimes it gets cancelled because of weather, but it tends to work out,” said Pulaski.

     Sydney McGuire is a freshman elementary education major said, “I feel like I have not met as many people as I thought I would, because we are not supposed to be hanging out with a lot of people or sitting close to each other or anything like that. So I feel like if there was not a pandemic, then I would be able to meet a lot more people, but other than that I do not really know what to expect otherwise.”

     The University is still hosting safe, socially distanced activities, so neither McGuire nor Pulaski have been fully relegated to their dorms all day. McGuire said she has gone to a few events put on by the Student Activities Board, though she has yet to look into clubs and organizations. Pulaski, though, has been talking to writing and music clubs. He also attended the rush events for the fraternity Sigma Nu, and he helped put on the theater production of “Twelfth Night” earlier this month. He explained that he does prefer in-person events to virtual ones, but a lot of meetings have been online. Because of this, he said, “It has been easy, yet difficult, to get involved.” 

     Also, as part of being a freshman in the Westover Honors College, Pulaski is required to attend ten “cultural events.” These events provide a forum for students to become more integrated into the campus community. 

     Even though in-person events are limited this year, freshmen in Westover are still required to go to ten of them. Pulaski said, “I have not gone really to the virtual ones, I have usually just been going to the ones that are in-person. […] Ten is certainly a lot, but I feel as though they have definitely increased the amount of events they are saying count as cultural events.”

     Pulaski can see how the pandemic has affected his college experience thus far, especially as an art student. “Twelfth Night” was performed with the six feet social distancing restrictions in place. 

     He said, “Classes like [dancing] and acting, at least on my behalf, are like every day for me […]. And it really changes the way that those classes function, like with dancers having to be six feet apart at all times, [and] it does not really work out that way.” 

     In fact, Pulaski was sad to say, “We actually just had our next semester show get changed because we could not do it feasibly with corona.” 

     Still, he says that performing “Twelfth Night” is his favorite memory from college so far. “I thankfully had a really really good and fun role, and I got to perform with some amazing people: some seniors, some juniors, some sophomores, and even in a pandemic we still were able to put on a really good show that a lot of the student body came out to see.”

     McGuire has been finding her hybrid schedule to be confusing. Hybrid classes are classes taught with both an in-person component and a virtual component. She said, “I do not really like [hybrid classes] as well. I like being able to go in class, and I do a lot better when I am sitting in class, because I do not have all my other distractions. I am sitting there, and I am paying attention, and I get more out of the learning than sitting on a computer.” 

     Although she prefers in-person classes, she appreciates that her online only classes do not come with the confusion that hybrid classes come with: “I do not have to remember where they are and what days they’re here and what days they are online. They are completely online, [and] one nice thing is both of my completely online classes are on the same day. So I do like that.” Despite the challenges of virtual learning, McGuire did say that she is doing better academically than she expected.

     While adapting to the college environment, McGuire has started an online blog titled “college living.” In it, she writes about her experiences, from what she’s been up to, to how she has been feeling. 

She said, “So for the past few years, I have had really bad anxiety, and I have struggled with it so much […] And I just know there are other people out there who have the same problem, but they do not want to admit it, [and] I love to write. As long as it is not like something that I am told to write about, I love it. So it just comes naturally to me, and I can write, and write, and write, as long as it is on my terms. […] And right now it is just such a crazy time, and nobody really is meeting that many people unless you live with them or you have classes with them. It is harder, and I just figured, if people are going through the same thing I am, I want them to know they are not alone. [And I want them to know] that they can talk to me, and then they can see what I am doing to cope with it, and maybe they can try the same thing, and if it works, great, if not maybe there is something else that I know but they do not, or they know but I do not, that we can share with each other, and help each other out.” 

     McGuire said that she has a great support system, and she wants to be that for others. “I just want to be there for other people. That is my main goal in all of this, because I just know how it feels, and I do not like going through it, and I just don’t want anybody else to struggle with it like I did.”

     To find Sydney McGuire’s blog, go to https://collegeliving.godaddysites.com.

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