First-Years Face a New Social Scene

First-year students share their experiences adapting to new safety protocols while trying to meet their peers.

NYU students sit distantly around Washington Square Park to complete classwork and to talk to friends. While physically distanced, students have found ways to socialize online. (Staff Photo by Manasa Gudavalli)

Zoom screens, Netflix parties and numerous group chats may not be how many first year students at NYU envisioned their first few days of college, but they are making the best of it. New safety protocols and remote classes, while necessary, have inevitably made meeting new people and socializing, in general, a challenge for freshmen both on and off-campus.

CAS first-year Brandon Sato did not expect to meet many people, nor have a number of social events this semester; within a couple days of his first semester, his expectations proved to be true.

“So far, the only chance to socialize with people I’ve really had is in class, which, in a Zoom call with 50+ people, is not very easy,” Sato said.

Despite living on-campus, Sato found that he still did not see a lot of people, except for in the laundry room or elevators.

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Students have been Zooming into class from across the country and world, and that distance, compared to six feet, is especially challenging to overcome as well. CAS first-year Zaskia Torres has been joining class from Florida, and while she focuses on the positive, she admits her experience has been wearing.

“[S]tarting my studies at NYU over a Zoom call is incredibly challenging, mentally draining and sometimes I feel alone knowing I’m 2000+ miles away from campus and even more so away from the student body abroad,” Torres said. 

The past couple of weeks, Torres has participated in various events found via NYU Engage, and found that Club Fest and group chats were most efficient at meeting new people. Despite socializing via Zoom being strange and unpredictable, she is grateful for being a part of the NYU community, even from a distance.

Tisch first-year Gerry Orz found an online community of NYU students over the summer with whom he has since stayed connected, as well as friends within his dorm. Together, they hang out in outdoor spaces or go on walks in the city — his favorite so far being to Koreatown and Chelsea Piers. Still, he can relate to Sato in that forming new connections and making plans with friends has been difficult.

“The much more difficult part is the social distance as six feet is substantially larger than it seems,” Orz said. “I still can have meals with my friends and classmates, we can still explore the city and more; it’s just far more limiting and complex than it would’ve been normally.”

Though the guidelines have caused many students to find both safe and innovative ways to meet and spend with one another, first-year students living off-campus have only had opportunities to meet their peers through a screen.

Liberal Studies first-year Amanda Chacha is living on-campus this semester and even as she meets people and plans activities such as hanging out in the lounge or in the park, she prioritizes doing so safely, as do so many others. Most importantly, Chacha thinks that we all need to work together and follow these guidelines if we want any change of getting a normal college experience this year.

As first year students try to adapt to this new social scene both on and off-campus, many agree that the safety of themselves and their peers is still one of their greatest concerns.

“I would rather be safe and put in extra effort to make friends than put our health and other’s health at risk,” Chacha said.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sep. 14, 2020 e-print edition. Email Juliana Guarracino at [email protected]

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