By Leah Clark, Staff writer
As the first semester of the 2021-2022 school year begins, it is apparent that this year is different from others as many feel that there are two sets of freshmen on campus. Of course, there is the actual freshmen class of 2025, but a portion of the upperclassmen are also considered to be freshmen in a sense that they were not able to receive what some would call a “full” college experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This second set of “freshmen” are the sophomore class of 2024. Their sentiments have been expressed especially in regard to the New Student Orientation that was held for the incoming freshmen and transfer students a week prior to the classes beginning. In an effort to understand the situation that these two sets of “freshmen” are in, freshman psychology major Velvet Tapp—a native of Nashville, Tennessee—opened up about her experience starting her first year in college during the pandemic.
How has this experience been coming to a college campus to live here for the first time?
It’s been interesting. I’m still trying to adjust to being in a new city for the first time and getting used, mainly for me, to the roads, but I guess people around people for the first time in a while. But, I guess it’s all kind of nerve-wracking at the same time, especially for people like me. Like I’m very shy, and I’m not really a social person, so I haven’t really made any close friends or anything yet. So, it’s been a little lonely, too, but it’s all very exciting at the same time.
Yeah, so how do you think that COVID-19 has made this time even more difficult?
I feel like with social distance it has been a little hard and hearing that we’re, like, the biggest incoming freshmen, so it’s kind of hard to social distance a lot. So, that’s also been new as well as getting used to the masks and being outside with the heat. That’s also been kind of hard to navigate around.
So, what specifically has been difficult about this? Has it been more so the academics? More so the social aspect?
More the social aspect. I feel like if we weren’t in masks and we weren’t in this pandemic school would be a little bit easier. In a way, just thinking back to the way things were in high school before all of this happened, it was easier to communicate with people. It was easier to communicate with my teachers, but now, it’s like we have to go through certain steps in order to be safe. It is understandable, but it can be a little difficult sometimes.
Are there certain things, you kind of mentioned earlier too, that you’ve noticed on campus and you’re like ‘Okay, I can see it is this way because of COVID-19 and everything’?
Yeah, in a way. As I said, I understand, but it’s… I wouldn’t say tiring, but it can get a little old, I guess, in a way, but I understand taking precautions and stuff.
You’ve kind of alluded to it already, but what is your stance on it? Do you mostly agree with the guidelines, and how the administration has made things safer during this pandemic?
Of course, I agree with it, but it just can be difficult as far as just like, I guess, how many people you surround yourself with because you never really know who has it, how doesn’t. Like recently, I didn’t even know that Xavier was unenrolling unvaccinated students. I didn’t know that, so I mean it’s a great thing that they’re making sure that everyone is vaccinated and being safe.
Okay. Well, were you still able to kind of enjoy the events, such as the ones they had during Orientation and others that were going on, even though the pandemic is still happening?
I mean, yeah it was definitely fun! Shoutout to the Peer Deans, they did their thing, but it could be a little hard. It was definitely hot, definitely hot with the mask, but it was still fun regardless. I think it was still a cool thing to experience.
Would you say that it brought back a sense of normalcy to this experience?
Yeah, most definitely. I didn’t think we’d get all that. I thought there would be way more limited activities for us, but they actually had a lot planned.
How do you think your feelings about the school year would have changed if Orientation wasn’t the way it was?
Probably. I probably would’ve thought that ‘this is a bit boring,’ and I probably would have questioned why I even came here if it wasn’t like that. The whole point of the whole HBCU experience is about that. It’s about the activities. It’s about the events sometimes. It’s not just academics. I feel like it also has to be fun, but of course, be safe.
Do you think that Orientation being the way that it was last year, do you think that made it harder for the students that were freshmen last year, sophomores this year?
Uh, I wouldn’t say harder. I do, kind of, feel bad for them. They didn’t get this experience, and I know it sucks, but hopefully, the class of 2024 officers will have something planned for them as they did with us. I know they missed out on a lot.
So, what is your hope for the school year in the overall context of the pandemic?
I guess just being able to have fun and doing what I have to do. In the midst of the pandemic, of course, being safe, but still having fun. This is still a new experience for everyone, not just myself, and I want it to be memorable but still taking precautions.
On the other side of Tapp, sophomore middle school education major Helena Harrell—a native of Slidell, Louisiana—is part of those students that did not get their traditional college experience during their freshman year due to the pandemic. The situation has become that as a sophomore she is seeing the exciting activities that she looked forward to as a freshman but could not participate in.
Was your experience moving onto campus this year different from last year, and specifically, regarding COVID-19, how so?
My experience moving on campus this year compared to last year is only a little bit different. Last year, I was able to move in a couple of days earlier with Louisiana residents, and it wasn’t many people at all on campus where it was easier to move in and now be shoulder to shoulder with people or worrying about sharing the dolly and such. This year, it was very crowded and not very ideal having that many people move in at one time.
How do you think that COVID-19 impacted your college experience last year?
COVID-19 greatly affected my college experience. The majority of my classes were virtual and the majority of all on-campus events had to be help virtual including orientation.
Were there certain things, events such as Orientation, that you believe were greatly impacted by COVID-19?
I do believe that events like Orientation, Homecoming, and SpringFest were affected. The majority of all events were virtual and we didn’t get to receive that full experience of them all. I am a YouTuber and even though I filmed these events I wish I could’ve recorded more.
How did it feel seeing the freshmen class of 2025 experience some of the events that you weren’t able to due to COVID-19?
Seeing the freshmen be able to do in-person events and have activities that we didn’t have was kind of heartbreaking. Yes, we are happy for XULA 25, but XULA 24 wishes we had that same experience.
Some people have felt that your class, the sophomore class of 2024, are freshmen in their own right because they didn’t have a traditional college experience. Do you agree with that, and why?
I do agree with that statement because we are all experiencing the same thing basically for the first time with you guys.
Do you believe that this year will return to a sense of normalcy after COVID-19?
I don’t believe this school year will have a sense of normalcy. Yes, we have more in-person events, but they are still limited to the number of people that can attend and also still having to wear a face mask. I do believe next year things can go back to normal, though.