The emergence of COVID last year has only exacerbated many of the difficulties faced by students who find themselves attending new universities. Having gone through this process myself, I can attest that my first year at UMW hasn’t been what I hoped it would be.
Having attended Germanna Community College as a sophomore last year, I was really looking forward to once again getting the feel of being emerged in a real college environment at UMW. For my freshman year I attended Christopher Newport University (CNU) and while I ended up leaving the school for a variety of reasons, one of the things I did like about attending CNU was the campus environment. There’s sort of an unspoken impression that being engaged in the college atmosphere leaves on you, providing you with a “home away from home” sensation.
However, up until this semester, I really haven’t had the opportunity to immerse myself in the UMW atmosphere as much as I had hoped. Even though I’m attending some of my classes on campus this semester, I still feel really disconnected from UMW and don’t have any significant attachment to the school. Part of this may be due to the fact that I’m a commuter student and don’t spend as much time on campus as other students, but I also think it’s largely because this irregular school year has made it impossible for transfer students like myself to get to experience what a normal year at UMW is like.
Meeting new people has also been pretty difficult throughout the year. Unlike in-person classes, Zoom classes don’t offer the same opportunity to connect with your classmates on a personal level where you get to know them better. Outside of breakout rooms, there’s really no concrete way to get to know your classmates. Having grown up in Fredericksburg and with a few friends already attending UMW, I was lucky enough to meet a few new people through them. However, I can only imagine how hard it’s been for other transfer students who didn’t know anybody entering their first year at UMW.
Moreover, finding a way to develop relationships with my professors has also been a challenge. Much like trying to meet fellow UMW students, Zoom classes didn’t really offer a way to get to know my professors personally. Especially given that most of my fall semester class sizes ranged from 50-60 students, I felt pretty distant from faculty, which made connecting with them on any kind of personal level a struggle.
I’m happy to report that things have been getting better, however. Since the start of spring semester and several of my classes in-person, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a variety of new people, many of whom are in my major. This is an added bonus since these are some of the people I’m going to be spending the most time with over the next year. Furthermore, I’ve also been able to meet with and better connect with my professors more so than last semester. Much like my new friends, these are professors in my major, which means that I’ll get to spend the next year forming relationships that will aid me in pursuing my career and beyond.
The year of COVID has definitely made assimilating into the UMW community difficult to say the least. And while I still don’t feel a strong attachment to the school that a lot of other UMW students may have, I am hopeful that by this time next year, as I’m about to get my diploma, I’ll finally be able to call UMW my home away from home.