Redefined and Refined: The New College Experience

After what felt like a five-month Spring Break, universities around the country have opened back up for the commencement of the new fall semester. Except this time around, we are in the third quarter of a global pandemic. As we have all come to understand, the idea of college as we know it has changed drastically — for now, at least. Those who’ve already finished college say it was the best four years of their life, but university living around the country has taken a significant toll this year. For the first time in history, the nation has seen a record number of colleges remain closed for the fall semester as they transition to entirely online instruction. Other universities, while not entirely online, have imposed strict social distancing guidelines in efforts to maintain some form of normalcy. As colleges undergo an intense redefining moment, changing when they find it suitable, there are still a swarm of implications for students.

            As of late, universities simply cannot offer the experiences that many students have awaited for. Despite the fact this is not directly the fault of the institutions, it is still a burden students across the country are experiencing. Needless to say, everyone’s safety should always be the first concern. Now with such strict limitations, how will students navigate their new college experience? Is there any way of for them to abide by these new obligations while actually enjoying their glory years? Gone are the days of large study groups, club meetings, and parties. Options are quite limited on many college campuses this semester — and a lot of them are virtual. Acclimating to the new environment can be a weird experience, as nearly every aspect of university life has changed in some form. With the current state of the world, it is hard to predict when things will ever be normal again.

            Aside from the roots of education, college is a place in which students can stay social, interacting with friends and peers. With coronavirus looming over the world, it is challenging to replicate this experience and make up for the lack of a social touch to university life. The social aspect is one of the most notable parts of college. Without it, what experience is there left for students? Of course, it can be argued that the experience, while different, can still be ventured. With programs like Zoom, students can simulate a similar social experience through their computer screens. However, being confined to the virtual realm can be isolating.

            In any case, making the best of the reformed college experience is not necessarily impossible. In fact, it is just one of the many significant adjustments that students have to make this semester. While maintaining a sense of optimism without being timid and tense, students can still find some joy in their college enrollment. Fortunately for UIS students, the campus is still holding events. While Welcome Week just wrapped up, there are still upcoming events sure to include social distancing or virtual interaction. Whether at home or on campus, attending these future events can help with the feeling of isolation because of current circumstances.

This is only the beginning of the semester, so be patient as we wait to see how future events unfold. Be mindful, remember to wear your masks around campus, practice social distancing and remember the most important thing is to remain safe. Here’s to the new college experience – have a great semester!