Freshmen adjust to hybrid learning, campus restrictions

With limits on in-person interaction and many classes moving online, some first-years have struggled to meet people and get involved with campus organizations.

Students sit in chalk-marked socially-distant circles on the lawn outside of the Paley building on Aug. 27. Students living on campus are using outdoor spaces to spend time with friends in lieu of guest policies in residence halls. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Trying to make friends during the first week of college can be daunting. 

For Elizabeth Urbanowicz, new social distancing policies have complicated socializing even more, as students can only visit rooms within their residence hall

“I’ve made friends from different buildings and we all sit out late at night and talk, but I can see it getting really difficult when it gets colder outside,” said Urbanowicz, a freshman biology major.

On top of the regular stress of starting college, this year’s Temple University freshmen are adapting to physical and social restrictions on campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In their first weeks on campus, freshmen students are navigating online classes while attempting to get involved with student organizations that may be operating fully online.

Giselle Kiriacos, a freshman political science major, found the adjustment to online classes difficult and said it’s been hard to keep up with class meeting times. Some of her classes meet regularly via Zoom, while others do not meet at all.

“With the different learning methods, it’s a lot different and can be really hard to understand when you’re just starting out,” Kiriacos said.

Kiriacos hasn’t been able to find many opportunities to socialize with her peers and get involved in clubs since she is trying to follow social distancing guidelines on campus, she said.

Gary Lawery III, president of Temple Progressive NAACP and a senior political science major, said it’s been difficult recruiting freshmen for his organization and feels Temple could’ve done a better job creating events to cater to freshmen and transfer students.

“[TempleFest] wasn’t the best thing or really conducive to what we were trying to do,” he said. “The timing of it wasn’t great and the website we had to navigate wasn’t very user-friendly.”

Despite the difficulty in getting freshmen involved, Phillip Smith, director of Temple Student Activities, said that the university’s Welcome Week events were a success. More than 1,300 students attended TempleFest, and nearly 500 students tuned in to a conversation last week with Leslie Odom Jr., a Philadelphia native who played Aaron Burr in the musical “Hamilton.”

Urbanowicz feels her online classes have gone well and sees some potential benefits in working from home.

“I think I’ll be fine, it’s definitely different, but I don’t think I’ll have any real trouble,” she said. “I like that I can just roll out of bed and hop on Zoom.” 

But Urbanowicz feels that residence hall restrictions have hurt the new students’ chances to hang out with friends they meet in classes and around campus. Urbanowicz lives at Morgan Hall and has not found many opportunities to spend time with the friends she’s made, she said.

Jessica Hurst, a freshman psychology major, had never taken a Zoom class prior to arriving at Temple, but feels her online classes have gone well.

“My teachers have all been really helpful and they respond pretty quickly if I ever have a question,” she said.

Hurst doesn’t feel the classes are as good as in-person learning, but gives the university credit for making the effort to keep everyone safe.

Hurst hopes she’ll have the opportunity to meet new people in a safe way during her time on campus, she said.

“With the masks and everything it’s obviously very different, but I’m sure joining clubs and getting involved virtually will make a lot of that stuff come easier as time passes,” she said.

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