UC Davis freshman share experiences meeting new people and starting college remotely
Every year, the freshman class arrives on the UC Davis campus ready to take on an exploratory year in the dorms together. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the class of 2024 began their college career dispersed: residing in dorms, apartments or their hometowns. The flexibility of the new reality of remote instruction has allowed students to make their own decisions regarding where to live this quarter.
Alexandra Ochoa, a first-year biochemistry and molecular biology major, decided to move into the dorms this quarter in hopes of gaining some form of a freshman experience.
“I feel like it’s one of the things that I am not missing out on with the situation right now,” Ochoa said. “So it’s been exciting, it’s been nerve-wracking meeting a lot of new people, getting the hang of remote learning from the dorm, using the bathrooms that are shared. It’s definitely different, […] but I’m really happy about it.”
In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, students reside in their own dorm rooms without any roommates. Combined with the countless other restrictions enforced to keep the students safe, freshmen are challenged to come up with creative ways to meet people in the dorms. For Ochoa, this means a quick greeting outside of her hallmates’ rooms, with both parties wearing masks. In addition, Ochoa makes use of social media and the occasional outdoor interaction to make new connections with her peers.
In terms of adjusting to college given the circumstances, Ochoa recognizes that this year will be different, stating that it will be more difficult than the conventional freshman year experience, but remains optimistic for the future.
“I’ve heard already from other students that for them, just adjusting to the quarter system on its own was really tough,” Ochoa said. “But I do have hope. I do think that we’re capable and more with all the resources that they’re still providing online. I’m hopeful and I think I can do it.”
Alexis Avila, a first-year animal science and management major, chose to move into an apartment in Davis this fall. Aliva made this decision in fear of dorms being shut down because of COVID-19 concerns, and because of the potential difficulty meeting people in the dorms while living in a single.
Although the pandemic has added obstacles to defining a social circle, Avila has found ways to create connections. For example, she has also taken to social media in order to meet new people this year, particularly on her year’s Facebook group.
“The UC Davis class of 2024 group on Facebook has been a great way to meet fellow
students,” Avila said. “Although many are staying home, I have been able to reach and hang out with people with similar interests or studies. Since living off campus, my roommates and I have also biked to campus to meet other freshmen living in the dorms.”
Despite the strides she has taken to meet people, Avila admits her experience thus far as a freshman has not lived up to her previous expectations.
“Before Covid, I expected to be moving into the dorms with one to two roommates, eating at the dining hall, going to class and meeting with my professors, meeting new people and more,” Avila said. “But what I am experiencing is moving into an apartment complex, going grocery shopping, cooking meals for myself, meeting new people over social media and staying cooped up in my apartment. All of which I didn’t expect to do [until] next year.”
Far from the cows of Davis, Rachel Huerta, a first-year environmental toxicology major, started her freshman year at home. Many factors contributed to Huerta’s decision, but learning that she wouldn’t have a roommate was a turning point.
“After they cancelled that option, I really didn’t want to be alone in my dorm for long periods of time, because all my classes were online anyway,” Huerta said. “So I thought it’d be really hard to socialize and just do a lot of the normal, first-year activities, and I really didn’t want to pay for a dorm if I wasn’t going to get the same experience.”
Although she is confident that the decision to stay at home was right for her, Huerta has faced difficulties meeting new people when the only option is virtual. This distance from campus life even reaches academics; Huerta shared her abnormal experience starting college classes virtually from home.
“It’s really, really surreal,” Huerta said. “I feel a little bit of a disconnect from my professors and again, from other students, just because there is an aspect to it, where it’s like,’is this actually real?’ This is so disconnected from reality that it doesn’t feel like it’s an actual thing.”
Huerta hopes to move into the dorms in the upcoming quarters, and while she hopes to gain a semblance of a freshman experience in Davis one day, Huerta acknowledges and accepts the uncertainty of life plans during a pandemic.
“I’m definitely considering moving back Winter Quarter,” Huerta said. “I really want to have some sort of experience as a college freshman living on campus. But who knows? I never thought I’d be in the situation where I am right now, so I can’t really say that it’s certain. And if winter quarter doesn’t work out, hopefully I’ll be there [in the] spring.”
Written by: Nora Farahdel — firstname.lastname@example.org