The freshman experience at Montclair State University this fall is undoubtedly different than it has been for any other class that has walked and resided on campus before. In many ways, those sophomores, juniors and seniors who have decided to try out this “new normal” might see this lifestyle we’re forced to attempt due to the COVID-19 pandemic as stifling and irritable in comparison to semesters past.
Yet, for those of us freshmen who have decided to attempt living on campus even under these circumstances, we’ve found a sense of security and clarity in being here rather than at home.
On March 13, 2020, the day my high school and so many others went home from school and work for the last time, the entire world changed. Normalcy was thrown so far out the window it might take years just to recognize the sight of it due to the pandemic lockdowns.
As seniors in high school at the start of lockdown, we lost everything that was guaranteed to every single senior class before and maybe even after us. The high school class of 2020 were the black sheep that would never experience a senior prom, or as obsolete as it may seem, a graduation ceremony with weight and meaning.
For six months now, nothing we have experienced has been normal. Much like everyone else, our worlds have been altered for better or worse. Despite this sudden change, we have finally been granted the chance to feel normal once again in simply returning to school.
As freshmen, we have no real rational or concrete depiction of what college is. We don’t know what it is supposed to feel like and we don’t know what it was like before we got here. Movies like “Animal House” or that time you visited your cousin don’t exactly depict college accurately. The protocol and lifestyle before COVID-19 are obsolete and insignificant to us as freshmen.
This has been a common theme throughout many conversations and interactions I’ve had with other members of the class of 2024 around campus. Whether it is waiting in socially distanced lines at the bookstore or walking out of Sam’s Place with our meals ordered on GrubHub, the consensus is these practices are reassuring.
For once, many students can experience something new and exciting while not losing sight of the pandemic that continues to hang over our heads like a dark cloud.
In a lot of ways, it’s special we are even here. Many of us are the only ones in our friend groups from back home to even be given this opportunity. We have little to no basis or preconceived notions of what is normal and what is not. Therefore, walking around in masks and waiting in spacious lines while still getting a healthy amount of both in-person and online opportunities while living on campus is, for the time being, “normal.”
It’s oddly comforting that for once in over half a year, we can once again feel as if things aren’t all that bad.