Students make most of experience despite pandemic

By Mikayla Magdziarz, Columnist

It’s been difficult for all students to get the full college experience through a computer screen during the pandemic. Whether students return to campus next semester or not, I don’t want to have any regrets about how I spent my time in college. 

It’s challenging to plan your immediate future and to define your own place in the world when its conditions are constantly changing. However, uncertainty is not an excuse to ignore opportunities that are right in front of you.

“Mismatch between expectation and reality can be difficult for students,” according to a Jan. 1 PBS article. “Part of that is because important milestones, like graduation, can’t happen the way they were envisioned. Traditional-age students may struggle uniquely with the loss of certain coming-of-age experiences.”

To seize current opportunities, I decided to work at the Northern Star, which has been an amazing experience as both a student and a writer. Students should take advantage of all NIU has to offer including courses exclusively available for either spring or fall semester. I am taking six courses and it can be overwhelming. But, had I not stacked my course load, I would not have been able to take film festival administration in my final fall semester. I sacrifice my free time solely for that opportunity and it turns out it’s one of my favorite courses that I’ve had the pleasure of taking. 

Although my time at NIU is coming to an end, those who have just begun the journey through undergrad are experiencing similar frustrations with being involved at NIU since the pandemic has drastically impacted campus and university life. 

Freshmen are struggling during the pandemic because colleges have been restricted in many ways since the pandemic began. As we make our halfway mark through the spring semester, there is hope in looking to the months ahead. A silver lining in all of this, we’ve understood just how vital human connection is for everyone including college students. 

“I was fortunate to have a normal semester my first half of [my first] year,”anthropology major Bugs Craig said. “Having that first semester in person and being able to afford to live on campus was certainly a social benefit, and I was able to meet plenty of people.”

Craig also found a lot of connections through joining the LGBT LLC online learning community where they made friends that they talk to every day. 

When living on campus for their first semester, Craig said they felt more motivated to see what the university life had to offer and look around for opportunities for involvement. Events on campus like the Club Fair were great for students like Bugs and their friends to discover the many opportunities to build relationships within the many communities on campus. 

“We signed up, and I ended up getting engaged with a lot of different clubs that I made precious memories with and that I really enjoyed,” said Craig. 

These clubs did not move well to the online format.

“At least I got to have the satisfaction of having those experiences, even though I am not experiencing them right now,” Craig said. 

Two clubs that Craig joined were the WGSS club and Japanese culture club made up of mostly graduating seniors. When the time came to “pass the baton down,” Craig said there were no elections due to Covid. 

“To live the college experience, you don’t really need to join a sorority or a frat, or anything like that. There are other means of meeting new people and making connections on campus, but the most important thing is to put yourself out there” said Craig. 

Socializing and trying new things are two crucial elements to one’s personal development, and in your twenties, it is a must. There are still opportunities that accommodate those who must stay home during the pandemic. A virtual coffee hour will be held on Thursday from 11 a.m. to noon. On March 8 a virtual Resumé Q & A  will be held from 11 to 11:30 a.m.. 

Many internships have also gone remote and are accessible through multiple sites such as Google and Linkedin. Academic opportunities, such as study abroad programs, are still expected to carry out.

“I will still be looking for opportunities to socialize on campus where it is safe,” Craig said. 

Craig said the opportunities are still available and sometimes you just have to look for those little flyers. 

After staying home and refraining from traveling for nearly a year, all we need is a fresh perspective to remind us of all that this world has to offer. Even if it’s simply going for a drive and looking around outside. We’ve been in this pandemic for nearly a year now, but these events do not pause time itself. We must not allow the uncertainty in life to stop us from experiencing the formative moments of our college experience.