PATEL: COVID-19 continues to dramatically alter students’ lives

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Photo by Zach Bukowski

The Commons is located on Well and 17th Streets.

As we pass the one year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, the days of having people over in the dorms, going to classes in large lecture halls and spending time with friends at in-person social events seem like a distant memory.

This school year has been very different — academically, personally and socially. Acknowledging that these challenges exist, Marquette University should make an effort to improve students’ lives by considering increasing social events and finding ways for students to meet one another.

This year has been notoriously hard for first-year students as it is nothing like what they expected coming into college.

Olivia Nettesheim, a first-year student in the College of Health Sciences, said she had big hopes for college. Originally from Germany, she was expecting the American college experience to be a place full of crowds and events where she could meet people, since she didn’t always get those opportunities in high school.

“I had big expectations because of what I saw in movies and stories and books,” Nettesheim said. “I thought campus was always going to be buzzing, that there would always be something to do.”

Nettesheim lives in The Commons and said that it has been difficult to make friends in residence halls this year due to limited social interactions because of COVID-19 restrictions.

While it’s important that Marquette takes the appropriate precautions to keep people safe, especially in the residence halls to avoid dorm lockdowns and quarantines, it’s just as important to support students’ abilities to make friends and get the most from being at college. 

Virtual events do not appeal to many students because they are spending the majority of their day this year in front of a computer if they have virtual and hybrid classes. 

The best way to meet other people is in person. Marquette residence halls should take action by hosting more community nights or more floor events that involve opportunities for in-person interactions while still following COVID-19 guidelines. It’s important to foster community living on the floors because it’s a great way for students to make friends and build a support system during the pandemic. 

Additionally, many Marquette students have friends living in other residence halls and would prefer to spend more time with them.

“I wish it would be possible to spend time with other friends from other buildings, even just to watch a movie,” Nettesheim said. “I wish Marquette would understand how vital it is to make friends this first year, especially considering how isolated we’ve been during COVID.”

One possibility is that Marquette could allow students living in residence halls to have one guest within a specific, short period of time. Desk receptionists in residence hall lobbies could require guests to show their COVID Cheq screening results as a way to monitor those entering the building. 

If Marquette doesn’t want students spending time with students from other residence halls inside, they could consider hosting outside events, like movie nights or late night events as the weather begins to warm up. 

Another hardship students face is dealing with online classes and making friends. This is a big adjustment, especially for first-year students who are still trying to get acquainted to college and manage online classes.

Laura Niezgoda, a first-year student in the College of Communication, said she has struggled with making friends through online classes and in-person classes.

“No one talks in classes. Like how do you get socialization?” Niezgoda said.

Students may find it challenging to socialize as much as they did before because in-person classes have social distancing rules. It can also be very hard to communicate over Teams, as classes may be more lecture heavy and many students may prefer to keep their cameras off.

The university can encourage professors to use more breakout rooms on Teams, encourage students to use their cameras if they feel comfortable and do more small group activities when in-person to encourage social interaction.

College this year is also difficult for Marquette students who experienced campus life before the pandemic.  

Abby Tilton, a sophomore in the College of  Business, is part of the sorority Pi Beta Phi. Tilton said hosting events this year has been challenging. 

“My social life has been affected, being in a sorority,” Tilton said. “We haven’t been able to have the events we normally would.”

Tilton said she doesn’t know when her sorority will have important events that make the Greek life experience fun in-person. Marquette’s change in rooming policy to maintain COVID-19 safety guidelines also changed Tilton’s plans for the living on campus.

“I was originally supposed to have two roommates,” Tilton said. “I now have zero.” 

While it isn’t Marquette’s fault for the drastic changes to Marquette students’ college experience this year, it’s important that the university hears out students’ concerns as it is their college experience. The university should try to understand the struggles that students are facing, especially first-year students, as they continue to try and make new friends and adjust to online learning.

This story was written by Krisha Patel. She can be reached at krisha.patel@marquette.edu