Freshmen find new ways to acclimate to a strange environment amid Columbia and MU pandemic adjustments

Different freshmen have various ways of maintaining some sense of normalcy as the school year progresses amid pandemic adjustments.

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MU’s incoming class of freshmen have experienced challenges in the past few months: Postponed — and later cancelled — graduations and proms, virtual grad parties, isolated summers and altered Summer Welcome. After a prolonged move in and an unusual first week of classes, freshmen are attempting to get adjusted to a new college atmosphere.

“It definitely feels like I’m being forced to stay stuck in my dorm,” freshman Inbal Barzilay said. “It’s basically the same thing every day,” she said. As an incoming freshmen, Barzilay created a simple school schedule and had little opportunity for socializing in her new space. Most of her free time is spent as many college students do: “I watch a new show on Netflix,” Barzilay said.

Barzilay said she struggled to make new friends, citing that being stuck in her dorm only allowed her to make friends with her roommate and their mutual friend. However, there was a silver lining.

“I didn’t expect [faculty] to be so concerned about the well-being of students,” Barzilay said. “Professors and TAs are all like, ‘If you feel unwell, just don’t come to class.’ They just don’t want us to be more stressed out.”

She understands that the university is doing what it can to keep people safe, so she built a routine that worked for her. Being on campus has required her to have a routine that revolves around staying in her dorm for a majority of the day.

“I’ve only been off campus to go to Target and to see my parents when they visited. That’s really it,” Barzilay said.

Other freshmen have built different routines and social networks utilizing campus facilities, even if they have limited capacity.

“The adjustment has been pretty nice; my suitemates and I all go to the gym, it's a daily thing we can all look forward to,” freshman Jacob Walters said. “[We] all like video games, TV and movies. We all just have a good time when we do that stuff together.”

Walters has built a small social network between himself and his suitemates because they will naturally be spending a lot of time together.

“We’re in this for the long haul,” Walters said. “We’re gonna be around each other for so long, just gotta make the most of it.”

Like Barzilay, Walters agrees that MU and Columbia have handled COVID-19 well.

“I think Columbia’s been handling COVID pretty well,” Walters said. “[COVID] definitely changed how I socialize.”

Some freshmen are just doing their best to acclimate on their own accord. Eleanor Levinson is thankful to be on campus this semester even as social distancing guidelines separate her from others. As an undecided major, she feels she has extra time to explore different interests.

“I like to look at how much more I can learn. I can look into stuff I am actually interested in, like health, learning and trying different things,” Levinson said.

Levinson spends her time connecting with family back home, practicing her faith and just being able to coordinate her own school schedule, something she wasn’t able to do in high school. Overall, her adjustment to MU despite the pandemic has gone smoothly.

“The adjustment has been good. There’s been people reaching out and checking in on me — it’s a blessing,” Levinson said. “I’m not that homesick … I’m not sure if it’s the homey vibe with Columbia, or if I’m just excited for this experience.”

The class of 2024 has expected this new transition since their senior year was cut short by COVID-19 in March. Expectations have been redefined. This class has to manage following health guidelines, strained socialization efforts and new academic standards as they start their MU careers. This transition is unprecedented, but some freshmen are already taking steps to call MU home, regardless of how different it may seem.

Edited by Sophie Stephens | sstephens@themaneater.com

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