Amid pandemic, Class of 2024 discuss hopes for the fall, unusual start to college


Graphic by Olivia Yarvis

Members of the undergraduate class of 2024 are starting their college experience in the midst of a global pandemic. From worries about the format of classes and clubs to concerns about self-quarantining, this is what they have to say.

Grace Wu, Reporter

Amid the uncertainty surrounding Fall Quarter due to coronavirus concerns, members of the class of 2024 are looking forward to starting their college experience in the coming months.

For most members of the arriving class, their senior year of high school got cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unable to spend time with their friends in-person, incoming Northwestern freshmen reached out to one another via social media, using platforms like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, GroupMe, Zoom and Discord.

Communication freshman Katherine Tuohy said it was “the best thing ever” to talk to other incoming freshmen at NU when the pandemic hit the United States.

“It was very difficult to talk to (high school classmates) because we were focused on the negatives of senior year being shut down and taken away,” Tuohy said. “The cool thing about talking to kids from Northwestern was focusing on the future and post-corona — in college, enjoying life and not locked in your house.”

But some international students are unsure of what to expect before and once they arrive on campus.

McCormick freshman Perry Benyella, who is from Bamenda, Cameroon, took a gap year, he said. Because embassies are still closed in some countries, he said he fears he might not meet a lot of his international friends.

“Some of them are saying (they) might have (to take) their classes online from their respective countries,” Benyella said. “They might not even come to campus. I’m actually scared that I may not be able to meet a lot of people and the experience may not be as same as it would have been if times were normal.”

In an email sent to international students on June 22, the Office of International Student and Scholar Services said International Student Orientation, which typically takes place before Wildcat Welcome, will be offered entirely remotely in early September. The email said it is “likely” that international students will have to self-isolate upon arrival to the U.S., and the University will “ensure all new students have a comfortable living and basic needs are met” during that period.

For Medill freshman Isabella Costa, who is from São Paulo, Brazil, everything is “really uncertain.”

“It’s hard because I think every single thing is a massive problem,” Costa said. “We have to quarantine before going to campus, and I don’t even have a visa.”

Costa, along with several other incoming freshmen, said she is most looking forward to Wildcat Welcome. It is not yet clear whether those events will be delivered entirely remotely or through a hybrid experience.

“Maybe it won’t be the big Wildcat Welcome with everybody together, but they will come up with something really special,” Costa said. “I’m just happy and excited to go to campus and start a new phase of my life.”

Members of the class of 2024 have also expressed their concern about the new reality of college life after Wildcat Welcome.

Weinberg freshman YueXi Mo referenced the wearing of masks, implementation of physical distancing and restrictions on large-scale gatherings as potential barriers to gaining the full college social experience in classes and extracurriculars alike.

“The biggest fear we have is how we can start hanging out or meet(ing) new people while staying safe and taking precautions,” Mo said.

When asked about ways the University can support incoming students feel safe and welcomed on campus, members of the class of 2024 discussed physical resources like masks and COVID-19 tests, as well as psychological resources like counseling to help them transition to a new environment.

In Mo’s opinion, NU has the money, staff and resources to help students.

“Everybody’s life is different, and they’re all going through different things,” Mo said. “(The University) should definitely take advantage of that (money).”

Although some incoming students have expressed anxiety over not knowing concrete plans of what to expect for Wildcat Welcome and the fall, they still eagerly look forward to stepping on campus and starting a new chapter of their lives.

“I’m so happy to say I have a school that I’m going to,” Tuohy said. “That’s what keeping me grounded — Northwestern will always be there.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @gracewu_10

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