Campus / COVID-19 / Featured / News / September 10, 2020

Freshmen enter Knox with fear and optimism amid quarantine

Orientation leaders help freshmen move into the dorms amid rain and social distancing. (Robert Nguyen/TKS)

As Knox prepares for the start of classes next week, returning students grapple with how the pandemic has altered their college experience. But for the incoming class of 2024, freshmen must begin their higher education in quarantine.

“It’s a bit overwhelming,” freshman Anna Mendonca said. “They’re telling us all these changes they are making and stuff. It’s like, ‘Yea, but I don’t even know what it’s like normally.’”

For many freshmen, the transition out of high school and into a summer lockdown has left them unsure of what to expect from Knox, or how to prepare. Social distancing and the limitations of remote learning will likely undercut the agency many freshmen were eager for in leaving high school behind. Freshmen — along with their families — were also compelled to consider the threat of  COVID-19 transmission as they moved into the dorms.

But amid concerns, freshmen said they are willing to make the most of what they can from their first year.

“Being in the class of 2024, I can’t really be too upset about anything anymore,” Amira Siddique said. “It’s like I didn’t have an actual graduation ceremony, I didn’t have a prom for my senior year — all these things (…) that I’ve been building up to for four plus years being taken away — I can’t really be that hurt by like a few things in my first year of college.”

Despite the fallout of the pandemic, Knox proved itself to be a persuasive option for many freshmen considering deferment or other colleges. 

Freshman Sonia Lopez, a first-generation student, considered staying home and attending a community college online as her parents wished. But Lopez cited her admissions counselor as a big reason she decided to pursue the four-year experience she wanted. How Knox handled its students during the pandemic was one of the selling points Lopez’s admissions counselor gave.

“So I heard — hope I’m not wrong — that Knox helped their students out and did not automatically kick them all out compared to some schools around my area that I heard they kicked their students out, which when I talked to my admissions counselor that sounded really nice,” Sonia said.

Without the opportunity to travel or sit in on classes, freshman Frankie Dupre also said admissions was one of the main reasons he came to Knox.

“Honestly since I’ve only been on campus twice, I’m not going to know what it’s supposed to be like so I think I am fortunate in that sense in that I don’t know what I’m supposed to be experiencing,” Dupre said. “This will be like my first exposure and when things go back to normal I will be pleasantly surprised.” 

Siddique, who is coming to Knox from her hometown Moline, Illinois, said she was first attracted to Knox for its small class sizes. Now within a pandemic, she is increasingly grateful she did not choose a larger university.

“I honestly feel better being in Galesburg than I do in Moline because it’s less people there,” Siddique said. “I mean it’s a tiny population for the school, tiny campus, so it’s not these huge schools where it’s entire cities you’re having to worry about. It’s just like those few people who are in contact with the school.”

For the time being, Knox has opted to provide on-campus housing and in-person elements for some classes. This was another compelling attribute for freshmen who received little from their online-learning experience in high school and observed many other colleges go fully remote.

Despite the threat of infection, Lopez said she is glad she can live in a dorm because she does not have an adequate study space at home. Freshman Adam Chermouth said his grades tanked at the end of his senior year of high school. As a hands-on student, he knows online-learning does not work for him. 

“I guess I’ll just have to get used to it, I mean if there’s nothing possible I can do,” Chermouth said. “If it’s just a couple of months I’m fine with it. So either way I’m really hopeful we don’t have online learning but if that’s the case I just have to suck it up.”

While there are reasons why Knox may appear more appealing than other colleges in the pandemic, many freshmen voiced that they are just eager to begin the next step of their lives. 

“I’m the second one in my family to go to college and the first to dorm so I don’t know where I’m at right now,” Chermouth said. “I’m a bit startled and confused but, a new chapter of your life, got to get on with it.”

Dupre chose not to defer because she was unsure if waiting would change her financial aid. Mendonca also decided coming to Knox this fall was the best option, despite the frustration of not being able to finish highschool or start college the way she envisioned.

“I feel like staying at home and struggling to find a job or something is not really the best course of action for me,” Mendonca said. “To be honest, I feel like I just have to power through it and hope that the three years after freshman year are a little better.”

Sam Lisec, Multimedia Reporter
Multimedia Reporter
Samuel Lisec is a senior majoring in creative writing and philosophy. He has worked as a staff writer, co-news editor and podcast host for The Knox Student. Lisec has also interned at the Register-Mail local newspaper in Galesburg, IL and is a recipient of the 2nd Place award for Investigative Reporting at ICPA in 2019. Email: smllisec@gmail.com

Tags:  class of 2024 COVID-19 first year experience freshman class freshmen quarantine social distancing

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