Stanford Hall, one of the six South Campus residence halls for freshmen

Starting the first year of college is hard. One must adapt to his or her newfound independence, while also being thrown into a completely unfamiliar environment. However, the Class of 2024 faces a whole new challenge: acclimating to college during a pandemic. While many other college students are experiencing their first taste of undergraduate life solely through Zoom, the University freshman community is living on campus with COVID-19 restrictions. 

With mostly online classes, constant mask wearing and limits on the size of gatherings, it is easy to imagine the social struggles freshmen are facing. How can one feel a part of the University’s community with all these obstacles in place? Does the Villanova pride that we all know and love ring true for our new freshmen classmates? 

Although the restrictions make it challenging to connect with others, Maddy Holobinko, a freshman from New Jersey, believes the current campus atmosphere is very welcoming and spirited. She considers the University’s Community First campaign to be the reason for this, as it brings a sense of unity among students. She recognizes that while inconvenient, the restrictions are necessary to live this new normal. 

“College has always been super intimidating for me,” Holobinko said. “I thought the COVID situation would ruin it, but honestly college is so much better than I thought it would be. It’s awesome to know that even during such a hard time, things can still work out.”

When asked if there is anything that could be done to improve her experience, Holobinko was adamant that the school is doing a fantastic job with the circumstances. Between Orientation and CAT events, she appreciates the school’s commitment to the students’ happiness beyond the classroom. However, she does wish that club sports, in any capacity, were still active. 

“The varsity teams get to practice,” she said. “I wish we could have that because soccer has always been something I’ve done. Knowing that other people are practicing, I wish we could do something, even if it’s not a lot.”

On the other hand, Zakai Bradshaw, a freshman from New York, describes his experience as “strange.” 

“I don’t know what it was supposed to be like or actually would’ve been without COVID restrictions, but it feels awkwardly distant,” Bradshaw said. “Getting to meet people has been okay, but it would’ve definitely been easier without social distancing.” 

However, Bradshaw is hopeful that once student organizations truly start up again for the semester, he will be able to connect with more people and have a college experience that is more like his previous expectations. 

Although they have different thoughts on the matter, both Holobinko and Bradshaw agree that they feel safe on campus and applaud the University for its extensive planning for its return to campus. In the end, both are hopeful that Villanovans will keep in mind their desire to stay on campus and truly be able to put ‘Community First.’