Navigating The First Year Of College During COVID-19


Gabrielle Daley

Markers are placed on campus to remind students of social distancing guidelines.

Lauren Cincotta, Editor in Chief

For students in the Class of 2020, the end of their senior year was unlike anything they could have imagined. The COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to switch to remote learning, as well as the cancellation of prom and other traditional graduation celebrations. As the country grapples with the pandemic well into the fall, members of the Class of 2020 find themselves adjusting to life as a college student amid the pandemic. Gabrielle Daley, a member of the West Springfield High School Class of 2020, and student at Boston University is among many college students experiencing campus life during the pandemic.

Typically, the campus experience involves students moving onto campus, with many living away from home for the first time. This allows them opportunities to make new friends and pursue different interests. At a school like Boston University, being in the city increases the high energy on an already busy campus. However, as with most colleges this year, the student experience has dramatically changed. Many students are doing school from home, and few have the opportunity to be on campus. For those that are on campus, the experience is not like the one they had expected.

 Students at Boston University were given the option to return to campus, with more underclassmen choosing to do so.  Since arriving on campus in August, Daley’s college experience has included mostly remote learning.  Life on campus also  includes frequent COVID-19 testing, the campus has a cumulative positive test rate of 0.10% from July 27 to November 29, with 280 students listed as recovered from COVID-19 as of November 29. Students that test positive are quarantined and sent to special housing to limit the spread to others. Undergraduate students living on campus are tested twice a week. In addition, students are required to fill out surveys to indicate whether they are experiencing symptoms. If a student is not experiencing symptoms, they are given a green badge which allows them access to areas like the library, gym, and dining. 


While students can’t attend classes as they normally would, the transition to remote learning has brought about some added benefits for students. Classes are often recorded which allows students to go back and review material if needed. This also allows international students who may be out of the country, to access the classes in a way that works for them. “Teachers are very understanding during this time and want to help students succeed,” said Daley. She also has two in-person classes once a week, which require masks and social distancing. This is a welcome opportunity to experience a small taste of what a typical classroom experience at B.U would look like. The remote classes can make communication and collaboration a challenge. Daley noted that in a class of almost 300 students, nobody has their cameras on, making it hard to know who is in class. “It’s awkward sometimes to meet or reach out to people when you don’t see them in class,” she said. 

This experience has taught me to make the most of what you have and be grateful for the opportunities you are given.

— Gabrielle Daley

Connecting with other students has been a challenge that extends beyond the classroom. Although some students do have roommates, interactions are fairly limited outside of “households” or units of people who share the same living spaces in the dorms. To maintain distancing, there are capacity limits in laundry rooms, elevators, and other common spaces. Food is prepackaged and touchless drink dispensers have been added in dining areas. Rather than encouraging in person gatherings, virtual events are the way many student groups and clubs meet. The annual Splash event, an opportunity for students to discover clubs and organizations and make connections had to go virtual, making it more difficult for some students to connect. Daley has joined the radio station on campus but rather than actually going to the station, most of the work is done remotely from her room. Due to gathering restrictions and other safety measures, regular events and traditions have to be cancelled or modified, changing the overall feel of the campus. After working diligently in high school to make attending B.U a possibility, the current situation can be disheartening. “I worked hard to get here and this is not exactly what I dreamed of when I thought about coming here,”said Daley. Even after being on campus for a few months, there is a sense of disconnect from the school community that comes with the safety requirements. However, Daley considers herself lucky to be on campus at all, especially because many colleges have closed their campuses due to COVID-19. “It makes me happy that I chose B.U, because I know that other people don’t get to be on campus and have this experience, even though it is different than I thought it would be,” she added. Experiencing a pandemic during the first year of college is a challenge, but she is hopeful that she will still get to have some of the typical college experience in the years to come. Even though this year has not gone the way she planned, she still has learned many lessons about resilience.  “This experience has taught me to make the most of what you have and be grateful for the opportunities you are given.”