New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Class of 2024 reminisces about a pandemic-inflicted college experience

As NYU’s class of 2024 approaches graduation, students reflect on a college experience impacted by Zoom classes and quarantine.
Charlie Dodge
(Illustration by Charlie Dodge)

Three years ago, I was a freshly graduated high school student ready to take on the challenges of college. I was excited to move out of my home and into a dorm, have classes in large lecture halls and party my future worries away. Instead, the beginning of my college experience consisted primarily of staring at a computer screen in my parent’s house. 

This past fall semester, first-years have settled into their new rooms, mingled in lounges and bonded over shared confusion with their peers during lecture halls. However, for the class of 2024, the COVID-19 pandemic rendered a traditional first-year experience almost impossible. In the 2020-21 academic year, most classes at NYU were held virtually. Many students across the country struggled to adjust to online learning, with many reporting it affected the quality of their learning, and some students at NYU still struggle with its lingering effects.  

“I had acting classes on Zoom. That’s not supposed to be a thing,” Tisch senior Nicole Mercedes said. “Navigating that was really stressful and really strange.”

Mercedes believes that studying online set her back academically. She was not able to develop a close relationship with her drama group, which she feels is important in acting classes that are often emotional and vulnerable for students. Though she was in person by the spring 2021 semester, she still had a difficult time trying to form a close bond with her peers. 

“I didn’t feel like I was really kicking and running until we started doing in-person things,” Mercedes said. “Even the next semester where we did hybrid, where some people would come in and some people [were] on Zoom, it still felt very disconnected.”

For others, online learning made it difficult to build a connection with their professors. Though Steinhardt senior Esha Makkar was not thinking about opportunities like mentorship during her first year of college, she never had the chance to develop that intimate and personal connection with her professors over Zoom. 

“Even though I went to a few office hours and did stuff like that, it’s so much different being online,” Makkar said. “You don’t really make that connection as you do face-to-face.”

For Makkar, in-person communication is important to build a relationship with professors, which is needed in order to have a healthy and beneficial college career. As classes transitioned back to in person, Makkar found it easier to connect and have conversations with her professors. 

“I know with my Zoom classes, I would tend to turn my camera off, and I just didn’t really feel the need to try and connect so much because I was online and I didn’t feel close with anyone,” Makkar said. “But now, especially if I’m interested in the subject, I like participating and maybe going up to them after class and asking a few questions.” 

Though COVID-19 protocols began to lift and everyone was allowed to be back on campus in the fall 2020 semester, it was still difficult for some to get acclimated socially. This was the case for CAS senior Austin Celestin, who wasn’t able to move on campus until fall of 2021. 

“It was definitely a little harder because it felt like everyone had their established groups and I was kind of behind,” Celestin said. “I remedied it a little bit more now, but I didn’t get to do those Meet NYU or NYU Welcome events. I didn’t have those. That was a bit of an impediment.” 

Despite not having the typical introduction to college social life, some seniors like Celestin feel that they were still able to make up for that lost time. 

“I definitely was fortunate that my sophomore year roommate was a lot more outgoing than I was. He started introducing me to a bunch of other people,” Celestin said. “Especially junior and senior year, I started doing a better job of actually meeting people. I’ve definitely caught up in a sense.” 

Aside from these setbacks, the pandemic also gave students an opportunity to reflect on what they were truly passionate about. For some, it ultimately changed their career trajectories.

Celestin was originally supposed to go into the Gallatin School of Individualized Study to pursue film scoring and urban design, but the pandemic derailed all of his commissions and gigs. Instead, he decided to focus more on his passion for urban design. Over winter break, a friend connected Celestin to Open New York, a New York City-based nonprofit that focuses on the city’s housing shortage and advocates for affordable housing. After volunteering and canvassing for Open New York, Celestin has now decided to take his studies further by participating in the 4+1 BA-MUP program offered through the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the College of Arts & Science. 

“It was one of the first things I did out of quarantine,” Celestin said. “If I went with what my original plan was for NYU, I probably would be on a very different track right now.” 

Nevertheless, as they prepare to graduate, many seniors are concerned about finding a job. Despite the job market mostly recovering post-pandemic, job hunting is still a challenge. Makkar is nervous about this, but she frequently reminds herself that the rest of her class has those anxieties as well.  

“The job market is crazy right now. It’s so hard to even get internships, much less a full-time career,” Makkar said. “But, I do find solace in the fact that we’re all in it together. It’s not just me going through this.”

Though they never got a completely normal college experience, many students from the class of 2024 are ready to receive their diplomas and make the best of the college experience they still have left. 

“I’m kind of scared, to be honest,” Makkar said. “I feel like I’ve been focusing on being a student my whole life, so it’s a little scary to graduate and go out into the real world. But, at the same time, I think it’s good that we’re moving on.” 


Contact Liz Lindain at [email protected]

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About the Contributor
Charlie Dodge
Charlie Dodge, Creative Director
Charlie Dodge is a cartoonist/writer/junior at Gallatin studying 21st Century Storytelling. Originally a Californian, she has once again taken refuge in NYC this semester. She loves museums (especially the free ones) and has aspirations for a future curatorial career. Charlie frequently collaborates with Leo Sheingate, and posts way too many photos on Instagram @muckrakerdodge.

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