Firsthand account: Transferring schools during a pandemic


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Columnist Ally Formeller describes her isolating first year at NIU as a transfer student.

By Ally Formeller

Starting my junior year here at NIU was not what I hoped it would be. Classes were all online, so exploring campus seemed awkward, and I didn’t know where I was going anyway. I was excited to meet new people, but everyone kept to themselves— making new friends didn’t seem promising, especially with me being as shy as I am. I tried getting involved in clubs, but those were all online, too, and everyone kept their cameras off.

Starting college in a new town, not knowing anyone and being away from home is always a scary experience. Being a junior, I was already used to the regular college workload and the normal adjustments someone would make once they start college.

But transferring during the pandemic was a bigger adjustment than I’d expected. 

It was lonely. Most students didn’t walk to class, so especially in the colder months, almost no one was outside. The usual lively noises of campus life— laughter and loud conversations between friends, the squeaky brakes of the buses and the rolling of skateboards across the sidewalk— weren’t there. 

Other than the few people I’d hear coming and going from my dorm hall every day, it felt like I had the whole campus to myself. 

Transferring to NIU wasn’t anything like I expected it to be. Not only was it lonely, but being cooped up in my dorm all the time was completely demotivating. 

With many places around DeKalb closed, especially once it got colder, I retreated into my dorm room. But being stuck in the same place, taking hours-long Zoom calls and doing homework all day took a toll after a while. It felt like there was no opportunity to get out of my dorm to just have fun. It didn’t help that I still didn’t know many people here.

After my last two semesters here, it’s refreshing to see people all over campus. Clubs are back in person, and it’s way easier to get involved and make friends. While campus isn’t completely back to normal yet, this semester is much closer to what I thought it would be when I transferred. I’ve been able to get involved, make friends and actually explore campus. 

I can only hope that next semester will be even better.