The new college experience

By Qur’an Hansford

I cannot believe I am sitting here writing my last editorial as an undergraduate and as an opinion editor for The Rider News. What a bittersweet feeling it is to write this, proud to see my collegiate writing career come full circle, relieved to be graduating in less than a month, but I cannot help but to think about how much of a toll these last few semesters have been, for all of us. I could have done my usual “end of the year” editorial where I give words of wisdom to our Rider community about how we survived such a painstaking year. Stay tuned for my usual encouraging signing out at the end of this article. But, before we get to that, I do want to address this painstaking year I mentioned and elaborate on it.

In a span of over a year, I have written 10 articles about COVID-19 and how this global pandemic has ultimately changed the dynamics of society, especially college culture.

I remember being a senior in high school, feeling as though you areon this high of achievements and milestones. From college acceptance letters, to prom, graduation, to freshman move-in day. An incoming college freshman can feel the adolescence leaving their body and a false sense of maturity and independence taking its place. It is (for me at least) the first time I felt like an adult, at the very ripe age of 18. It just felt like I was experiencing something new all the time, from your first roommate, first day of classes, first college party, college game, for me, the first time calling my teacher “professor.” So many firsts, experiences turned memories for my fellow graduating seniors. We remember those firsts, how we felt at our first college party or failing our first test but just being happy it was over.

I am scared that the new generation of college students will not be able to experience these firsts or not be excited for them given the year we all had. Who can blame them? I had to watch my younger sister (a freshman at Bloomfield College) get robbed of her high school senior experience, no prom nor graduation. To sitting in her bed as a freshman in college thinking “is this even worth it?” As someone who was amidst their senior year being stolen but also having the most of the “college experience” it broke my heart to see my sister dread her freshman year, one of my most memorable moments. It got me thinking about how she is probably not an outlier in this case, that many incoming freshmen most likely share her exact sentiments.

Rider freshman and English major Kate McCormick believes that the college experience will definitely have a new meaning moving forward.

“I believe it will 100% influence how incoming students view higher ed. Given the circumstance, there are so many reasons to wait on higher ed right now, which I can only imagine will make students picky about choosing a school, knowing the climate they’re about to enter. How schools have handled the pandemic and keeping students safe is also going to be a major factor in that decision making process. In this pandemic the task of choosing a school for higher education has become even more daunting,” said McCormick.

I watched my sister, who was excited for college, wish she chose a different route. College freshmen were let down from, for some, a very memorable time in a young adults life.

College seniors had no choice but to come to a halt and pick up the pieces toward the end of their college career. This can begin to take a toll.

Rider senior and broadcasting journalism major Andriana Rice-Gilmore is excited about graduating this spring but spoke about her feelings in regards to the months leading up to the big day.

“So graduating in general, I feel like it’s a huge accomplishment because it’s something that we all have waited for for a while. However I feel like it’s an even greater accomplishment because some of us couldn’t mentally make it through the semester or through the year to graduate. I have a couple friends that aren’t graduating until next year because of just the pressure and stress alone. so I’m very grateful to be able to graduate and finish my school year and get my degree,” said Gilmore.

An unexpected transition of being on campus, to functioning a completely different way than before. Whether you lived on campus and now are at home or still residing on campus post quarantine.

Even the commuters — everyone’s way of life shifted.

Last year’s graduates, the class of 2020, are still feeling the effects of the pandemic a year later as they make their way into their own lives. Rider graduate Jason Mount experienced an unusual beginning and end. What was once an “LOL” is now a sour dose of reality.

“I think this experience is going to be a fun story to tell the grandkids at the very least. I imagine this is going to greatly impact my professional life, though. I studied acting when I went to Rider, and when the lockdown started the entertainment industry hit a huge halt and is still slowly making its way back to a functioning standard. I didn’t do too much acting work during the lockdown and even some months after that due to health concerns, so I’m worried that a gap in working time will count me out of future opportunities,” said Mount. “Student debt still isn’t forgiven and is probably a ways out from getting to that point, so I don’t believe it’s worth it for someone to put themselves in more debt to get less bang for their buck. At least for me, I know my main focus is to try and save money to find decent job opportunities and be financially secure enough to move out of my parent’s house,” he continued.

This chapter of our lives is coming to an end — for me an end to an identity that I never thought I would part with. Being a student was my whole life and I loved everything about it. But, even I know when a break is needed. After a year of masks and increasing COVID-19 cases a break should be encouraged.

I thoroughly enjoyed my years at Rider, as well as the fleeting months in the past year. I loved writing for this publication and sharing my opinions with my peers. I hope for a safe and healthy end of the semester for our community, congratulations to the class of 2021 and best of luck for the current and incoming students.

This isn’t goodbye.

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