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College, Now - Part One: A Junior's Experience

Ellen Levitt

Posted on February 12, 2021 14:23

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A look at college life now. Part One: A Junior's Experience

College life now in the US is very different than the typical university experience, due primarily to social distancing protocols in the age of Covid-19. Both of my daughters are college students now, and their experiences show what has changed...and what's the same.

Jessica is a second term junior at SUNY New Paltz, one of the premier colleges in the State University of NY system. She decided to return to her dorm this year because some of her classes meet in person. The Hudson Valley, where New Paltz is located, has a low rate of infection. Her campus is taking strict measures to deal with the virus.

She lives in a six-person suite but there are only four students living there now. The dorms are at less than 50% capacity, and some other kids live in town or commute from nearby areas. 

Jessica has a mixture of in-person and virtual classes. One of her Anthropology courses meets in person, where the students spread out in the lecture hall. Her other Anthro class is online. One of her music courses meets in person, but two others are online, as well as her private music lessons. 

Student social life is impacted greatly. She'd been active in a campus musical theater group for two years, but now that it's virtual, she gave up. She still attends activities at the student Chabad (Jewish) group, but attendance has fallen. Other clubs are active but not all, and student athletic teams have changed their activities. 

The main dining hall is open but the variety of other on-campus dining options has decreased. Jessica and the other students have complained about this.

Weekend nightlife has also been curtailed considerably. This college is not known for being a party mill (although it was thirty-something years ago!) but the pandemic, the economy, and other factors have shrunk the options. The kids cannot go to the movies and bars are quieter. Students are discouraged from attending big parties unmasked. So Jess and her friends get takeout food, shop, and hike for entertainment. 

The wild college party life is barely a factor at New Paltz, although I'm aware that it's much more active in other parts of the state and the country. 

So, what's the status quo? Kids staying up late on weekends, griping about cafeteria food, fretting over their assignments and their internet access. What's changed? So much more.

Many of Jessica's friends who attend other colleges have gone back to their campuses, but others, especially those who attend colleges in New York City, are staying home and doing virtual school. We know one young man who attends a Canadian college; he had to quarantine for two weeks when he returned to his campus, Mount Allison University. Meals were brought to his door during that time. 

And lest we forget, everyone is masking everywhere on campus!

Jessica really hopes (as do I) that her senior year of college can be somewhat more normal and better.

Ellen Levitt

Posted on February 12, 2021 14:23

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Source: LA Times

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