When the Class of 2024 imagined their first year of college, they envisioned spending their days strolling through the city streets and their nights laughing with friends during impromptu dorm room study sessions. They saw themselves planting the seeds of relationships that would blossom into lifelong connections. Above all, they hoped to experience the unadulterated freedom that comes with moving away from home. The city held promises of a memorable first year of college for the Class of 2024, but thanks to COVID-19, their expectations did not exactly become reality.
The pandemic hampered many first-year students’ plans across the United States. Many universities opened with heavy restrictions for the 2020-2021 school year, while others continued their remote operations from the spring. NYU reopened its Washington Square campus with a combination of hybrid, in-person and fully remote classes. Students were given the option to either return to New York City, attend Go Local locations or remain at home.
Those who returned to the New York City campus were met with stringent COVID-19 compliance rules such as a 14-day quarantine, prohibitions on dorm room gatherings and an almost entirely remote schedule.
While these restrictions ensured the safety of everyone on campus, students like CAS first-year Angel Davis felt that they made it difficult to connect with peers.
“The greatest challenge was honestly just meeting people,” Davis said. “I feel like a lot of people say the same thing because there wasn’t like [an in-person] Welcome Week. There wasn’t a direct way to meet people and kind of put yourself out there.”
Though CAS first-year Elizabeth Abraham was able to form strong friendships and meet students in her residence hall, she agrees that the lack of in-person events undermined the unity within the Class of 2024 at large.
“I still do kind of feel not as connected with the people around me,” Abraham said. “I’m very content with everyone in my life. But it’s also kind of like, I wish we had a Welcome Week, I wish we had more interaction, more events and we were just able to be in the same room with other peers.”
Though university-wide restrictions made it difficult for students to gather on campus, the thrills of the city along with online community-building opportunities helped first-years make the most of their turbulent year.
“[I loved] exploring the city [and] going to places at night, especially Brooklyn [and] Times Square,” Davis said about her favorite moments of the year.
Davis wasn’t the only one who was able to make the best of her first-year experience. Stern first-year Sofia Elhusseini was able to make friends thanks to the community programming at Rubin Residential Hall, where she lives.
“[I really enjoyed], obviously, spending time with my friends, and just the NYU spirit,” Elhusseini said. “NYU did do a lot to make us feel comfortable … I would go to a lot of [residence hall] events in the beginning when I felt alone, and that’s how I made a lot of friends in my dorm.”
Despite the challenges brought forth by the unprecedented year, some students also found opportunities for reflection and self-growth.
CAS first-year Sofia Fajardo switched her major from Politics to Psychology. Fajardo believes that if she had completed her first year remotely instead of living on campus, she may have never discovered her true passion.
“I’ve been wanting to go to law school since high school,” Fajardo said. “It wasn’t until my first year that I was like, wait a minute, I don’t know if I want to do this genuinely for myself or because of my family. So I think that through my first year, like being away from home, I’ve been able to think more on my own and for myself and realize that this is genuinely my life.”
Like Fajardo, Abraham lives on her own in New York City. Through the experience, Abraham learned more about herself and the world.
“Honestly, looking back within the last year, I think I’ve just grown so so much,” Abraham said. “[I] got in some emotional maturity [and] life maturity having to live by myself … Not [having] my family around all the time, not having that dependence and just fending for myself has been a good [experience].”
As the year comes to a close, the Class of 2024 looks forward to having something that more closely resembles a traditional college experience in the fall.
“[I’m hopeful for] the fact that we can have visitors for dorms,” Elhusseini said. “I’m hoping for in-person classes, anything that’s in person and that it’s safe in terms of COVID so that we can do as much as we can.”
Abraham hopes not just to meet people but to take advantage of the city as an NYU student should.
“I’m hoping next year, there’s more community building,” Abraham said. “[I hope] there’s more human interaction and just overall [that] I can go to Broadway shows, go to movies — do the whole thing and actually get an NYU New York experience.”
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, May 3, 2021 e-print edition. Email Natalie Melendez at [email protected]