Students bemoan their loss of normalcy

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On February 8, Chancellor Jones lifted restrictions on essential activities only on the student body following the desired low number of COVID-19 cases in the student body. Even still, students are encouraged to take every precaution to minimize positive cases. As March draws near and with it the anniversary of what many see as the start of life in a pandemic, some are analyzing the mental toll it has caused to those who envisioned a college life straight out of the cinema.

Many students like LAS freshman Kyle Johnson have expressed frustration with the shortcomings of pandemic college life.

“Personally, I feel like the University has cheated on us,” Johnson said. “The university suggested that with all of its testing system, students would have a near-normal experience. What actually happened is quite different. The university said there would be face-to-face classes, but there were hardly any. I can’t tell you enough about how terrible learning through Zoom is.

Johnson said he was extremely unhappy with the current situation on campus. He said staying home and attending community college would give him the same experience the university offers now. Not only that, but it would have cost thousands of dollars less.

“Once this is all over, I hope that myself and the other freshman who lost this year will be able to make up for what they missed,” Johnson said.

The negative attitude is not unique on campus. Many students had high hopes for the start or end of their academic careers, and the pandemic has disrupted almost all of them. The disappointment of the students, however, does not mean that the University has made no effort to maintain a certain sense of normalcy.

One of the things students crave that have been denied them this year is social interaction. Recognizing this, many Housing Communities and LLCs have hosted virtual activities for socializing groups, from Among Us parties to Origami tutorials.

Maya Syed, a second year student at LAS, is a Resident Advisor for the LCC Honors at Nugent Hall and facilitator of a multitude of virtual activities in which residents can participate.

“This is very fun!” Maya said, “I help organize these things and it’s a great way to engage with other residents. Obviously not ideal under the circumstances, but what are you going to do. Helping connect people and making friends is worth it.

Paige Alyson Gieseke, freshmen in the media, struggled to stay optimistic as she adjusts to such a secluded life on campus. She is a freshman and the last in a line of three generations in her family to attend college. She said that much of her life, especially when making academic decisions in high school, she’s heard of this campus.

“I would hear from them about how great the school would be if I chose to attend, the number of memories I would create and the different people I would meet,” said Gieseke.

Gieseke lives alone in the dormitory alongside many other single rooms. She said she went to the dining room on her own, had her take-out meal and sat in her bedroom at her desk to eat.

“While this is all overwhelming for a freshman experience, I am proud to be in the Marching Illini,” said Gieseke. “It brought me a lot of joy during this time.”

However, instead of walking the grass alongside the group’s more than 300 passionate family members, she walked on her carpet in her bedroom with the Zoom class propped up beside her.

“I learned a lot, but I didn’t feel as complete because of the joy I remembered participating in a marching band in person over the past four years,” said Gieseke. “Honestly, I hadn’t felt so isolated in my life, and I admit it was hard to adjust to it.

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