The New Freshman Experience

Anuva Kolli '24 and Jamnia Ai '24

From friendships, to clubs, to dances, to sports games, the first year of high school is supposed to be a year full of firsts. With this year’s COVID-19 restrictions, “first” is an understatement for freshman year.

Even freshmen who were in-person this fall consistently mention that it is difficult to create connections with peers, despite the physical proximity, compared to online students. However, the class of 2024 has found unorthodox ways to make those connections, attempting to create stronger bonds in spite of difficulties.

“Seeing all the freshmen in the snug, or at lunch … and having those eye-to-eye conversations, really helped my experience in getting to know other people,” Tahmir Murphy ’24 said.

Nevertheless, many students discussed the extreme difficulty in making friends amid all of the COVID-19 restrictions on campus.

Activities such as interscholastic sports, dances, weekend activities, clubs, and other functions on campus traditionally served as the main outlets for freshmen to acclimate to their new school. Those activities have been put on hold this year, and for good reason, but it has inevitably detracted from the freshman experience.

“Not being able to play contact football, and go against another team … really impacted my experience as a freshman,” Finn Sternal ’24 said.

For freshmen who have taken part in Loomis Chaffee entirely over Zoom, carving out the time for making friends was difficult due to the general adjustment associated with freshman fall in combination with the online platform.

“In person, … other than just classes you’re still connecting with people, like when you eat or in the dorms or like maybe when you’re studying together, but online, really the only time to get to bond with other people is just like maybe one hour every day during online classes,” Fedora Liu ’24 said.

Aside from classes, online students do get the opportunity to join clubs, another opportunity to make friends; however, many students have felt that club activities were mostly geared towards in person students this fall term.

One freshman, Jason Chen, having faced the struggles of being an online student, created a community online where students can ask each other for academic help, chat, send memes, video chat, and listen to music together.

“At the beginning of the year I really wanted to make friends … I created a server on a platform called Discord,” Jason said. “It allows people to interact in a lot of different ways and it’s just a nice home for people to call and to talk about different things, school related or life related. I think that was really successful because now even though we’ve never seen each other in person, … when we’re able to go back to school … you won’t feel so alone.”

Some of these online students, who may have felt isolated before, have cultivated their own community online. Still, freshmen have felt a separation between online learners and people who have already been to campus.

“I feel disconnected from the rest of the grade because of the time zone differences and how we’re mostly put into classes with people in similar time zones, so it’s a lot harder to make friends with a variety of people because you’re put in different classes with the exact same people,” Jason said.

Some students are also wondering about the eventual integration of online and in-person students.

“They already developed as a system, and you’re coming into it … it ought to be different than if everyone is developing at the same time in the system,” Fedora said.

“I believe that at the end of the year or whenever we all come back I think we will grow as a community and when we meet each other I think we will strengthen that bond … there will always be that memory of 2020 and 2021 and the groups that were built because of it,” Jason concluded.