A remote freshman’s semester in review

Sunday, December 6, 2020 - 2:32pm

.

Design courtesy of Shanning Stocking

I may be a little late on the Thanksgiving vibes but, as a whole, the holiday season offers time to “give thanks” (something we should do at least once every day). As the semester winds to a close and Michiganders prepare for another winter featuring hell’s elemental wrath, I would be remiss if I did not stop to think about these last three months. 

Back in the summer, my excitement was overwhelming. My senior year of high school had ended abruptly and I was ready for a fresh start. I agonized over my classes in July and signed up for move-in in August, both with an enthusiasm previously unknown to mankind. I figured it was only a matter of time before my “college experience” began.

As it turns out, expectations rarely meet reality. I elected to study remotely as all my classes were online. I refused to cancel my housing contract with the hope of returning once the number of COVID-19 cases lowered, a moment that never came. My parents are immunocompromised, so my options are limited in my hometown as well. It’s been nearly impossible to acknowledge the positives.

However, I’m not looking for pity. Coupled with the University of Michigan’s recent housing decision, the semester has been a tumultuous experience for many first-year students, even those that are on-campus. Without further ado, here are the highs and lows from 164 miles away.

 

The good

 

The option for students to attend hybrid classes is inspiring. Although 77% of all credit hours were taken remotely this semester, some students enjoyed face-to-face socialization, a scarcity nowadays but refreshing when available. Here’s to hoping — out of all our pandemic-related collegiate issues — for more opportunities for in-person education and interaction in 2021.

Our clubs and organizations have been extremely diligent. I am a member of the Sports Business Association and we have a speaker series every week over Zoom, as well as professional development workshops. From what I’ve heard from other students, other extracurricular activities have been conducted in a similar fashion. Keep up the awesome work, guys.

 

The bad

 

The awkwardness when in a Zoom breakout room is almost palpable. Unless you have a Chatty Cathy in your group, chances are that you and the other people in the room will spend the first few minutes blankly staring at each other in silence. Then, when you finally converse, the professor is already calling you back and you have to strategically say goodbye. Alternatively, there’s a chance your group hits it off! Sadly, you’re probably not talking about what you were assigned, so that’s no good either.

Why the heck were community bathrooms an option this semester? And one that came to fruition, no less! No one is going to reasonably wear a mask while showering or brushing their teeth and, if Michigan Housing thought otherwise, they were so devastatingly wrong. I’m not suggesting that we go full-out barbaric and conduct our business among nature, but can’t we push a little more for a safer substitute during this time?

Football season on the whole has been operating below its usual standards. The Holy Grail of fall Saturdays currently does not exist. Where else would you rather be on an Ann Arbor weekend than among 110,000 screaming fans? I get it, this pandemic has stripped us of far too much, but it still hurts to see the empty, cardboard-filled stands at Michigan Stadium. Plus, if that wasn’t bad enough, our annoying neighbors to the south were victorious and Jim Harbaugh appears lost yet again. His team is a measly 2-4, underperforming by the most mediocre of expectations. He might want to start looking for a realtor soon. 

 

***

 

A week ago, I returned to Ann Arbor to move the few belongings I had in Mary Markley Residence Hall back to my house. It felt strange to come back. I’ve been to campus plenty of times. Yet somehow, on what should have been a typical fall afternoon, the place I’d come to love never felt more foreign. 

Then again, this semester — as we’ve all learned — has been entirely atypical. On-campus freshmen may have had some fun, but they’d be cheating themselves by believing they received the full experience. The University is too diverse and enriching in its possibilities for this year’s freshmen to be satisfied in the limited amount of time they’ve spent here.

For first-years who have spent the year at home, it’s okay to admit our “experience” wasn’t great. Make no mistake: It’s felt like high school 2.0. We’ll enter next fall feeling like freshmen, feeling a year behind our classmates and a lifetime behind the upperclassmen.

 

Sam Woiteshek can be reached at swoitesh@umich.edu.


The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.

For a weekly roundup of the best stories from The Michigan Daily, sign up for our newsletter here.