By Katelyn Oswalt
The Classes of 2024 entered college in perhaps the most unique, distanced, and nerve-wracking semester in HWS history. While COVID is still present, the Classes of 2024 have been able to experience some normalcy this semester.
The Classes of 2024 had the typical unpredictability of the first year of college, plus the added stress of COVID. Kennedy Jones ‘24 described her experience having a single dorm room by saying, “The pandemic already created a feeling of loneliness, then I was alone in a room that I was afraid to leave as COVID was rampaging through campus.” Class President Jesse Whelan-Small ‘24 echoed this statement by saying, “I think there was a lot to be desired in terms of the social life.”
Despite this, Whelan-Small found a bright side of the social restrictions of Fall 2020 and Spring 2021. He described this silver lining by saying, “The guy I was in high school was not the most academically focused…. I think with COVID and the social restrictions it was really easy to focus on my academics and my extracurriculars, and I was proud of how I did.” Jones highlighted how helpful her professors were, telling the Herald, “I was so appreciative of how my professors changed their expectations due to the pandemic. As a freshman who had no idea what college was going to consist of, it was comforting at the time.”
At the beginning of the summer of 2021, students were anticipating a full return to campus due to low COVID rates and the dropping of mask mandates across the country. However, the rise of the Delta variant made those plans get a little complicated. “I was hoping we wouldn’t have to wear masks. I was hoping there would be no restrictions on anything,” Whelan-Small remarked. Despite this, he expressed the importance of wearing a mask saying, “I’ll wear a mask in class. It’s not a big deal to me. It keeps me safe; it keeps professors safe.”
Although Delta put a damper on some social and mask-less expectations that students had, it did not prevent HWS from being able to have in-person classes this semester. Jones showed her excitement toward in person classes by saying, “Thankfully, we are still participating in classes in person, which has been amazing. I feel like I did not get to see the real HWS last year, and as time goes on and more things are beginning to happen again, it helps me remember why I choose HWS in the first place.”
Adjusting to a fully open campus has had its ups and downs for sophomores. COVID is still spreading around our campus and the world, which has caused stress for students. “The hardest part of adapting to a more open campus is hands down the fear of getting COVID. It is hard to be completely confident and trust in the people around you, which can add another layer of stress. At the same time, you still have to live, especially after 2 years and continuing to live in a pandemic,” Jones remarked.
Although the campus is somewhat more normal than last year, sophomore students are still looking forward to a complete return to normalcy. “The best part is… walking around not having to wear a mask. It feels more normal… it’s just more vibrant,” Whelan-Small said about being maskless outdoors. Jones discussed her hopes for the future by saying, “In the least cheesy way possible, I am looking forward to having a real college experience. Being that this is the first semester of my sophomore year, I still have some hope. I think college already puts a lot of stress on people alone. Add the struggles that the pandemic creates, it is all the more stressful.”
Both Whelan-Small and Jones concluded our interview by offering some advice for the Classes of 2025, who are beginning their college experience in a pandemic as well. “For all the things that COVID will restrict you on, the one thing it shouldn’t restrict you from is trying new things,” Whelan-Small remarked. During the pandemic, he was able to become involved in Student Government and Debate Team. Jones echoed a similar sentiment by saying, “Do not use the excuse of the pandemic to not get involved. Freshman year is built to teach you the ropes of college, but to also let you try new things. HWS offers so many different clubs, and if you can’t find one that interests you, you can start your own.”
While Fall 2021 may not have begun the way that many expected it, the Classes of 2024 still have hope for a more normal future. In the meantime, they are attempting to find regularity and joy in these circumstances.