Reflections on first semester: First-years talk about college experience

First-years Kami Lou Harris (left) and Luke Petrosky (right) are pictured. Courtesy Kami Lou Harris and Luke Petrosky

This year has presented a number of challenges for everyone, as students and faculty adjust to the experience of college education amid a pandemic. This job has proven to be a special challenge for first-year students, who are not only adjusting to college in a pandemic, but college in general.

Kami Lou Harris, a first-year, said things have been going well so far. 

“To me, it hasn’t been that rough a transition since I’ve been here,” Harris said.

Luke Petrosky, another first-year, has been using meditation to stay calm and maintain a sense of normalcy during this difficult time.

“I like to meditate, and I meditate daily, and I think that just helps me ground myself and embrace gratitude and just be thankful for those around me,” Petrosky said.

Kiana Vallo, also a first-year, spoke to some of the struggles of making friends during the pandemic.

“I’ve relied a lot on my residence hall and the people that are in close proximity to me because that tends to be the safest option, as opposed to gathering with people that are in other residence halls, because then you have a lot of cross-gathering,” Vallo said. 

Harris said being around people is important. Getting to see people more often makes Harris feel better about the situation. 

“The more that we’re alone and not hanging out with people, the harder it’s going to be to make it feel like it’s normal … The more I see people in the halls and say ‘hi,’ and the more people I know, the more normal it is,” Harris said.

Vallo said it is difficult to get to know people when you also want to stay safe. 

“I feel like right now, the best thing to do is to be around people that are near you anyway,” Vallo said. 

Vallo has met more people through one of her classes. 

“It’s refreshing to have at least one experience where I get to be in person and I’ve met some people in that class,” Vallo said.

The in-person class meets once a week. Even though it is better than nothing, it’s Vallo’s only in-person class. Vallo would have liked to see more Tufts-organized ways for first-years to get to know each other. 

“It would have been nice to have more things that were facilitated … It’s hard to break into these groups and stuff,” Vallo said. 

Petrosky recognized that some students struggle with mental health issues. He acknowledged the organizations and systems Tufts has in place to support students’ mental health, like Counseling and Mental Health Services, but also spoke to the issue of privacy in dorms.

“There’s always just a chance of someone hearing and that prevents people from being fully transparent about what they’re doing,” Petrosky said.

Harris is happy with how college is going so far, because college hasn’t been any other way for Harris. 

“I feel like I have met so many people … This is how it is and I have nothing to compare it to,” Harris said. 

Beyond just trying to get to know people and make friends, first-years, like everyone, are worried about the pandemic. Vallo thinks Tufts is doing a good job of responding to COVID-19, but there is still an existing worry. 

“Almost everyone I know has had … some anxiety or [knows] people that have been testing positive,” Vallo said.

Overall, Vallo, Petrosky and Harris are all enjoying being on campus and having the experience they are having, despite the differences from a normal college life. Petrosky spoke to the privilege of education.

“I’ve really been trying to remember how privileged I am to be in this space and to pursue higher education,” Petrosky said. 

Vallo expressed her appreciation for the ways Tufts is handling the pandemic.

“There’s still a lot of ways that I feel like it’s been normal or at least enjoyable,” Vallo said. “Overall, we still have a lot of the experiences that make college college, it’s just very much adapted.” 

Harris echoed Vallo’s sentiments.

“I think it’s great here,” Harris said.