OPINION: A radically different freshman experience

WSU's incoming class will have new experiences, skills because of pandemic

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LAUREN PETTIT

As August approaches, WSU's incoming freshmen will face new challenges related to COVID-19.

MACKENNA ROWE, Evergreen columnist

In March, schools across the world had to switch formats and completely shut down due to COVID-19. As August approaches, accommodations are still needed to continue with the 2020-2021 school year.

Many first-year students had high hopes for the fall and being back in-person at WSU. Though this is not the experience everyone hoped for, there are unique experiences freshmen across the country will have that other classes didn’t.

Freshman Gianna Josten said she still plans to attend Washington State. However, her year will be almost entirely virtual; she still plans to move from Alaska to Washington for what freshman experience remains, which has traditionally been a time of growth and new experiences.

“We still have the connections [in] sophomore, junior and senior year for events, but freshman year, we make our own choices,” Josten said. “The experience is one unlike any other. It’s more of a special time, away from home, away from your parents, new people and you want to feel welcome. It’s going to be hard to feel welcomed when you can’t enjoy your time, and everything is just mandated.”

On July 1, WSU sent out an addendum stating students would not receive refunds on housing if the campus had to close due to COVID-19-related reasons. Luckily, on July 7 the decision was reversed, and many students and parents are thankful.

Meghan Lindell, freshman viticulture major, said she had a unique experience with the addendum.

“So with the addendum, I seriously considered not attending WSU. My best friend lives up in Canada, so I was going to get a work permit and move in with her and do community college online,” Lindell said. “My dad didn’t like that idea and wanted me to stay home and do community college there. Then they came out saying they’re not going to close the dorms, which is super helpful and made the decision much easier.”

Murrow College adviser Megan Starr-Gepford said there will be some differences the freshman class will experience this year.

“The biggest thing is that freshmen won’t get to experience is being on campus,” Starr-Gepford said. “They aren’t getting to walk down the hills and get to do the resource tour because that would physically show students where things are on campus.”

Chandler Juego, freshman mechanical engineering major, said he thinks there are some guidelines students will have to follow.

“School is trying to have people come together as much as possible, and I don’t think it’s going to be how the experience would normally be,” Juego said. “I think they should be a little less harsh on some rules; there are still some things students can do together. In general, all social gatherings, I think the primary people should focus on is hygiene and wearing masks.”

Starr-Gepford said freshmen will come out of the experience with new skills, because of the pandemic.

“Maybe this isn’t looking like the way you had envisioned, but it can still be a great experience,” Starr-Gepford said. “Note all the skills you guys got from being in a pandemic … the split-second change to the way that you learn, change your organizational style and still be successful. I think that’s going to speak a lot to your skills, you overcame a really tough thing, and these freshmen are going to do the same thing, and that’s something to reflect on beyond a letter grade.”

One phrase often focused on during this transitional time is “Cougs help Cougs.” The pandemic is a new experience for not just the new incoming students, but also returning students and faculty. Despite these changes, many students and faculty are still hopeful for an awesome school year.