Students lament their loss of normalcy

By Aidan Finn, Staff Writer

On Feb. 8, Chancellor Jones lifted the essential activities only restrictions on the student population following desired low numbers of COVID-19 cases in the student population. 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 consider the start of life in a pandemic, some are analyzing the mental toll it has taken on those who envisioned a college life straight out of the movies.

Many students like Kyle Johnson, freshman in LAS, expressed frustrations with the shortcomings of pandemic college life.

“I personally feel as if the University cheated us,” Johnson said. “It was implied by the University, that with their whole testing system, students would have a close to normal experience. What actually happened is way different. University said there would be in-person classes, but there were barely any of them. I can’t tell you enough how terrible learning through Zoom is.”

Johnson said he is extremely unhappy with the current situation on campus. He said staying home and attending a community college would give him the same experience as the University currently has offered. Not only that, but it would have been thousands of dollars cheaper.

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

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

One of the things college students crave that has been denied to them this year is social interaction. Acknowledging this, many housing communities and LLCs arranged virtual activities for groups to socialize in, from Among Us nights to Origami tutorials.

Maya Syed, sophomore in LAS, is a Resident Adviser for the Honors LCC in Nugent Hall and a facilitator of a multitude of virtual activities for residents to participate in.

“It’s a lot of fun!” Maya said, “I help get these things organized and they are a great way to engage with other residents. Obviously not ideal given the circumstances, but what are you going to do. Helping connect people and make friends makes the stuff all worth it.”

Paige Alyson Gieseke,  freshmen in Media, has been struggling to stay upbeat as she adjusts to such an isolated life on campus. She is a first-year student and the latest in a line three generations long in her family attending the University. She said much of her life, particularly as it came time to make college decisions in high school, she has heard about this campus.

“I was hearing from them about how great the school would be if I ever chose to attend, how many memories I would make and the different people I would meet,” Gieseke said.

Gieseke lives alone in the dorm room alongside many other single rooms. She said she walks alone to the dining hall, gets her take-out boxed meal and sits in her room at her desk to eat.

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

However, instead of marching on the turf alongside 300+ passionate members of the band family, she was marching on her rug in her room with Zoom class propped up next to her.

“I did learn a lot, but it just didn’t feel as complete coming from the remembered joy I felt participating in an in-person marching band for four previous years,” Gieseke said. “I honestly hadn’t felt so isolated in my life, and I admit it was hard to adjust to.”

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