Freshmen focus on positives, adjust expectations in altered first semester


A group of UK students walks in front of White Hall Classroom Building on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Haley Simpkins

In today’s post-pandemic world, life as a college freshman is much different than what UK’s class of 2024 expected it to be when they applied last winter.

Late night study sessions at the library, eating lunch with friends at Champs, visiting your friends in their dorm on the other side of campus, hanging out in the dorm common areas waiting to turn strangers into friends– these are all things this year’s freshmen class have missed out on during their first semester.

Alexis Back, a freshman biochemistry major, said her first semester has been okay, but it has been different than she expected as a pre-COVID applicant.

“Coming into freshman year, I did not expect corona originally,” Back said. “ I expected to be able to walk around campus without a mask, the library open until midnight and to have in-person classes.”

None of Back’s expectations became a reality for her this semester. Signs all across campus read “Masks are required in all public places on our campus” and events have had serious restrictions placed on them. William T. Young library stays open until 10 p.m. Monday – Thursday and only 5 p.m. on Friday and the weekends, which is a major adjustment from its pre-COVID, 24-hour schedule. As for Back’s third expectation, only 37.2% of all class sections offered were fully in-person due to COVID-19.

Back said the limited library hours make it harder for her to study with such a limited time frame that works with both her class schedule and the new library hours. Back also said she would prefer some of her online classes to actually be in-person, if COVID-19 were not an obstacle.

Despite these challenges, Back has made the most of her first semester and is happy to be on campus, no matter the differences she’s seen.

“I am struggling with time management, but I have been improving and adapting,” Back said. I make time to study, socialize and workout.”

Being on campus has also given her the advantage of utilizing the on-campus resources, Back said.

Mason Brewer, a freshmen psychology major, said he has had a great first year so far, except for the social aspect.

“The big negative that I have is it’s impossible to safely and effectively meet new people,” Brewer said. “I’ve tried by best to be safe and meet new people, but I’ve had to quarantine because of accidental exposures.”

Brewer said the pandemic not only has made it physically hard to meet people, but it has also affected his mental perception of socializing.

“Now, I came to UK for an education, and I know I can’t be parading around in a pandemic, but being able to hang with other people is really hard, because I get paranoid of catching COVID once there are more than five people in a room together,” Brewer said.

Brewer said he also fears the university’s strict policies may be pushing people to gather more at off-campus parties.

As for next semester, Brewer said he thinks the school’s policies may change next semester if there is a vaccine.

“I don’t really have any expectations for next semester right now, but if a vaccine comes out around January, then my answer will change,” Brewer said. “With a vaccine, I don’t really expect the university to be as strict as they have in recent months, but I guess we will all find out how that plays out next year.”

Marilyn Hosey, a freshmen theatre and arts administration double major, said her first semester has actually been better than she expected.

“COVID hasn’t dampened my enjoyment of college one bit,” Hosey said.

Coming from a small town, Hosey said she expected to have a hard time adjusting to college life in a city, especially with COVID-19 restrictions limiting her opportunities to meet new people, however, that wasn’t the case.

“I have fallen into the groove of things far more easily than expected, and I think overall UK has done a great job of trying to keep students safe,” Hosey said. “I met a group of friends through the Creative Arts LLP, whom I love dearly, and we are all able to get tested regularly for COVID through the free testing site at the 90 so that we can hang out without fear of passing the virus to one another.”

Hosey said aside from her normal social life, her first semester has also brought about new opportunities that she never thought were possible, even in a pre-COVID world.

“I even had the opportunity to perform in a play, which was live-streamed for COVID reasons, which I didn’t think I’d have the opportunity to do even if COVID weren’t a thing,” Hosey said.

As the uncertainty about next semester looms, Hosey said she has high expectations for how the next semester will play out.

“I have high hopes for next semester to be even better than this one,” Hosey said. “I’m excited to see where the next few months take me.”

Ryan Crane, a freshman neuroscience and psychology double major, said his experience has been positive as well.

“My first semester has actually gone well, considering the circumstances,” Crane said.” I think UK has done a great job with the transition to more online learning, but I still have a couple in-person classes.”

Crane said any expectations he had for his first semester were all formed pre-COVID and he soon realized they wouldn’t become a reality for him this semester.

“I expected to spend more time at the library, less time in my dorm, and to be able to go out with friends and have a good time,” Crane said.

Crane said even though this semester has looked different, it’s still gone pretty well, and he has set quite a few expectations for the coming semesters that he hopes will still happen even in a post-COVID world.

“I think that things will maybe start to open up more and [there will] potentially [be] more in-person classes,” Crane said. “I think [the spring 2021 semester] will be similar to this fall semester, but next fall, I think there will be quite a bit more activities and things to do around campus and Lexington.”

Patti Doud, a freshman integrated strategic communications major, said she came into her first semester without any expectations.

“I didn’t really have many expectations because I wasn’t even sure if we were going to be able to come in person at all,” Doud said. “The whole situation has been incredibly uncertain and didn’t really give me time to set up expectations or prepare myself for the semester.”

However, she did expect most of her classes to be true to their modality listing on UK. As an out- of-state student, she decided to schedule mostly hybrid classes to at least have a partial in-person element to her class that would make her move to campus worthwhile.

“Most of my hybrid classes just ended up being almost completely online anyway, which surprised me a bit,” Doud said.

Doud said she isn’t setting any expectations for next semester either, especially since COVID uncertainty continues.

“I feel like as soon as I have expectations, everything will change,” Doud said. “I honestly have no clue how it will work out next semester, but I’m hoping I can have equal opportunity for in-person learning at the very least.”

UK has already announced the revised academic calendar for the spring 2021 semester; course registration opens this week, with modalities listed on the course catalog for each section of a a class.