It’s been quite a year, for all of us.
It’s hard to think of anyone who has not been affected in some way by the global pandemic of COVID-19. From the elderly, to the health care workers, to the unemployed, to the families with young school age children, this past year has disrupted our lives.
But one group that perhaps not much thought has been given to are this year’s college freshmen.
This group of students are the ones who missed out on their senior year of high school, and all that brings with it. Prom, graduation, senior week – all gone.
But at least for many of them, they had going off to college to look forward to.
While such an event likely causes some stress, for most students it’s a time of excitement.
A time to move away from home and live on your own. A time to meet new friends. A time to think about what you want to do with your life. A time to pursue your interests. A time to stay up until the wee hours of the morning and talk about how you are going to change the world.
But a lot of that was put on hold, thanks to COVID-19.
Instead, freshmen have had to deal with wearing masks, maintaining appropriate social distance, taking classes from their dorm room, eating in small groups, participating in activities virtually.
They haven’t really gotten the chance to know each other like they normally would (and neither have I).
They haven’t been able to go to basketball games, one of the highlights of the college experience at our school. They have also had to keep their group gatherings small; so much for having that collective experience of cheering their team on.
Many of them have had to quarantine either because of testing positive for the virus or having been contact-traced to somebody who was. Just more isolation.
And the result of all of this?
There seems to be a lot more stress among my students than in past years.
I think the biggest stress is worrying about whether they will stay healthy.
But close behind worrying about your health is thinking that the college life isn’t everything you thought it was going to be, and blaming yourself for such thoughts.
You haven’t made the friends you thought you would. You haven’t got involved like you thought you would. You’re not getting the kind of grades you’re used to, despite your best efforts.
And thinking about all this just adds to your stress level. You think there’s something wrong with you.
However, despite all this, you’ve hung in there.
You still recognize what a great opportunity you have, to be at college.
You’ve become incredibly resilient.
You’ve learned how to navigate online learning, in its many forms.
You’ve learned to take advantage of the creative opportunities the college offers for you to socialize in a healthy, socially responsible way.
You’ve maintained a positive, cheerful, respectful attitude.
After every class, it seems like everyone one of you says “thank you”.
No matter what or how you are feeling that day, you manage to utter those two words.
To me, those two words say more about you and how you have successfully managed to get through this year than just about anything else you could say or do.
You’ve been grateful for the opportunity to be surrounded by your peers.
You’re optimistic about what the future holds, and know that this is just temporary, a fluke.
And I know that you are going to come out of this stronger than you can imagine.
So congrats to this year’s freshmen. You’ve impressed the heck out of me…