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Students are interacting with each other during Cajun Connection on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019.

The transition to university life is one of stepping into a new world. The effects of such an event as the COVID-19 pandemic introduces additional difficulties to this transition.

Many changes have been made to the lives we live, not just in the day to day, but also to grand events meant to help define milestones in our lives.

One such event offered by the university is the new student convocation, meant to help students in entering into a new chapter of one’s life.

Beth Giroir, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Office of First Year Experience, organizes the new student convocation.

“At this point in the semester, we've tried to as much as possible do things that meet the needs of our first year students or students in our freshman class,” Giroir said,

“regardless if they're virtual or they're here on campus or they're in some sort of hyflex."

The variety of new forms of class and lecture offered by the university is necessary to consider in terms of changes and challenges. Going from the experience of an involved classroom or work environment to such distanced learning is something of a sea change.

“Being a first year student is definitely challenging during a pandemic. I know I'm definitely not getting the full ‘first year experience,’” Clayton Andrews, a freshman environmental science student said in a written statement to the Vermilion, “but I understand that safety is more important than that.”

The focus on safety has certainly defined the experience at the university this year.

“I feel like the university is doing all that they can to keep us safe,” Andrews wrote in a statement to the Vermilion.

Giroir gave an example of such changes, through one important event.

“We offered the recent convocation, and obviously due to COVID restrictions we weren't able to do that in person, so we did have a virtual option available through Moodle,” she said.

This does not mean that we have been able to completely mimic the experience we attend university for.

“Online classes is absolutely the worst part for me. I know I would be doing a lot better in an actual classroom environment,” Andrews wrote in his statement to the Vermilion

Andrews had more to say about his experience outside of classes.

“I honestly feel isolated,” Andrews wrote, “and almost trapped in my dorm most of the time. It doesn't help that I'm an out of state student, and I didn't know anyone within three hours of Lafayette before coming here.”

The social isolation experienced this year has been noted by many as a major cause of concern. The first year experience is typically that of entering a new, vibrant community for many, but that is much more difficult in these times and conditions.

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