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Freshmen adapt to the new, socially distanced college experience

Students with Masks on Daisy Hill (copy)

Students walk across Daisy Hill with masks on. 

Masked up and six feet apart, Elle Peterson and her fellow freshmen residents on her floor of Ellsworth Residence Hall gather in their common space. Their resident assistant has organized different icebreakers for the residents to get to know each other better.

Despite the semester’s differences, Peterson, a freshman studying strategic communications from Olathe, says she tried her best to make the first few weeks feel as normal as possible.

“I would say [living in housing] is different than I imagined,” Peterson says. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of the girls on my floor though. We hang out a lot of the time, but we can’t really do much outside of the dorm.”

Many of the University of Kansas’ freshmen concluded their senior year of high school in an unexpected way — an immediate halt, followed by many of their graduations being held virtually. The series of events continues as they start their first semester of college during a global pandemic.

With Douglas County’s COVID-19 cases rising daily, freshmen’s first semester of college comes with meeting their professors via video chat and socializing with their peers in breakout rooms.

“I was definitely a little anxious going into online classes because I knew they were going to be a little more difficult than the ones in high school,” Peterson says.

Josh Navarro, a freshman studying political science from Hutchinson, says he is worried about how well he will retain some of the information from the lectures taught online. He is even more worried about all the students’ safety on campus.

“I think [KU] has done well with dealing with [the pandemic],” Navarro says. “They’ve done a good job at trying to have all the students follow and comply with the rules.”

Although KU anticipated an 8 to 10% drop in enrollment prior to the fall semester, Navarro says he never thought of taking a year off.

“I tried really hard to get scholarships for this year,” Navarro says. “I also qualified for the KU Pell Advantage, which was a big deal for me coming from a lower income family.”

Navarro’s living situation has also been different than previously expected. Living in a scholarship hall, Navarro says he feels a lack of the community aspect that usually comes with the halls. Scholarship halls usually have an open kitchen where residents cook and eat together, but with COVID-19, the kitchens have closed due to safety concerns.

“My expectation was to be in a community-based environment with the scholarship halls,” Navarro says. “This year, with no social events and no eating in the kitchens, it’s just not as community-oriented as I had expected it to be.”

Navarro, however, added that he understands why housing has put these mandates in place.

Along with housing and classes, extracurricular activities and groups look vastly different for new students than previous years.

Like many incoming freshmen, Peterson decided to join a Greek life organization on campus. Potential new members received an email two weeks ahead of recruitment letting them know it would be held exclusively online this year.

“The main thing I was disappointed about was us not having an in-person bid day,” Peterson says. “It makes total sense as to why the chancellor didn’t let us have one but that was the main thing I was looking forward to.”

Peterson says she appreciates the independence that comes with college-life. If classes were held remotely, most freshmen would have to go back home.

“To me, it’s still fun to be on my own and to be in Lawrence. I’m still having somewhat of a normal experience just being here,” Peterson says.

Even with the difficulties that may come with remote learning and having to social distance, Navarro and Peterson both say they are hopeful for their first semesters of college.

“I know the pandemic won’t last forever,” Navarro says. “This is just how it is for now, and I know everything will be okay in the future.”

Person 1: This song slaps.

Person 2: Your mom slaps.

Person 1: Thank you, my mom is a kind and wonderful lady.

 Person 1: I’m so sick of alcohol.

Person 2: I don’t know, I’m getting stronger every day. I love it.

Person 1: Do you do the vegan wrap here?

Person 2: We can do the chicken wrap with no cheese?

Person 1: I’ll take the Beyond Burger please. 

Person 1: Oh my God! I feel like I know you somehow…

Person 2: Yeah, we went to high school together. 

Person 1: Oh! *walks off*

Guy 1: Is the black market even real? Has anyone ever been on it?

Guy 2: I tried once but I couldn’t figure out how to get on.

Guy 1: I stayed up until 2 am watching Disney plus

Guy 2: I told my girlfriend I fell asleep but I was actually watching the Mandalorian.

Girl 1: How long have you guys been dating?

Girl 2: Since the summer, well actually for like two years but it’s a long story.

Girl 1: Who are you looking for?

Girl 2: This guy, wait I found him. Fanny pack boy. He flipped off my professor after a test and ran out of the classroom.

Girl 1: How did you choose KU? 

Girl 2: Honestly, I flipped a coin. 

Boy 1: Did I tell you? I think I had a threesome this weekend.

Boy 2: Woah, hold up. You think?

Boy 1: I was born a Phi Delt.

Boy 2: Please don’t ever say that again.

Girl 1: How do you get your boobs to look like that?

Girl 2: I don’t ever wear a bra? I don’t know. 

Girl 1: I just really want a guy to bend me over you know?

Girl 2: How do you know? You’re a virgin!

Guy: Sometimes I wish I could just be a dog and sleep all day. 

Girl: You wake up at like three every day. 

Guy: I know.

Girl: So…

Guy: So does that make me a dog or something?

Girl 1: I wish I was a little bit taller.

Girl 2: I wish I was balder.

Girl 1: I wish I had a...wait, wait, wait balder?

Guy 1: Let’s slap dicks

Guy 2: You ever pee and it feels like throwing up?

Woman 1: *holding baby* He would have been safer at the Hawk

Woman 2: Oh absolutely.

Girl 1: I would never date that guy.

Girl 2: Well, it depends how much money he has.

Girl 1: I’m going to the doctor to see if I have bronchitis before I hook up with him again.

Girl 2: Yeah that’s smart so you don’t give it to anyone else. 

Girl 1: No I mean I want to make sure I infect him.

Guy 1: I'm cutting some of my unnecessary costs, starting with Juuling.

Guy 2: Ight man, good luck.

Guy 1: Actually I might just start chewing

Guy 1: How was work?

Guy 2: My manager was chastising me for not dressing up in a Halloween costume, she doesn’t understand I’m strictly here to get paid.

Guy 1: I am so tired of this week, man

Guy 2: Dude it’s Monday

Guy 1: I know

Person#1: I want to be on the first ship to mars

Person#2: Not me, I doubt they have Wi-Fi

Perons#1: Yeah but at least they’re evolving up there. We’re all just devolving.

Girl 1: Um, I don’t eat pig.

Girl 2: You eat bacon all the time, bitch.

Guy 1: You better get going. 

Guy 2: Yeah, see ya. I’m off to get some Adderall.

Girl 1: Are you home right now?

Girl 2: Yeah, why?

Girl 1: I bought a cat

Girl 1: I just don't understand what fishing is for.

Girl 2: I don't know. Food, maybe?

Guy: I’m just gonna have to like carry an entire box of spiders up the hill tomorrow.

Girl: What?

Guy: Yeah, just like a hundred spiders in a box.

Guy 1: Sometimes ya just gotta give yourself a haircut.

Guy 2: Dude, you shaved half your head. That’s not a haircut, that’s a mess.

Girl 1: Can you eat fruit raw?

Girl 2: How else are you supposed to eat it?

Girl: That class is killing us. ​But they say rest is for the dead.

Guy: Well, at least we'll be rested.

Girl: She's not in class this semester

Guy: Maybe she's dead

Girl: Or studying abroad