A lack of opportunities for social connection has left students on campus at a disadvantage this year for meeting new people. Social distancing measures can create an isolating atmosphere for students, especially freshmen and transfers.
Elizabeth Cory, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, lives in West Campus, where many first-year students are housed. Despite this, Cory said the semester has been isolating and making friends has been difficult.
“I don’t think it’s good for my well-being to be inside all the time, all day,” Cory said. “I’m naturally a social person, and I haven’t been able to socialize.”
Cory has all online classes this semester, which she said came as a surprise — she wasn’t notified of her online-only status until three days before she arrived at Boston University. She said that because she finds it difficult to find value in her time on campus, she plans to stay home second semester.
“I feel like they haven’t really helped us integrate into the community,” Cory said. “I don’t know what I should be doing to make it worthwhile to be on campus. I feel like my school has kind of let me down.”
CAS junior Zachary Bodi said new BU students face a challenge when it comes to fitting in on campus.
“It’s a tough environment right now,” Bodi said. “It’s hard to find things to interact with on campus when everything’s virtual.”
Bodi added that accessibility to campus events has been made more difficult with few, if any, student organizations holding meetings or activities in person.
“Even though those things exist, they’re not easily found,” Bodi said. “It’s not like on campus, where you’re walking around and there’s always people coming at you saying, ‘Hey, get involved with this, get involved with this.’”
The University’s restrictions on student gatherings is a big obstacle for freshmen seeking to make connections, Bodi added.
Such barriers are also hurting College of Communication freshman Emma French, who said her in-person classes haven’t provided much opportunity to meet other students. In many instances, she said, she’d arrive to class on campus only to stay on a Zoom call for most of it.
“I’m only going in class in person four or five times a week, and I’m not really meeting anybody there,” French said. “It still feels not like you’re talking to people or connecting to people.”
For French, online classes don’t always feel substantial — though she understands the pandemic prevented an ideal Fall semester, she said it feels like “a lot of money for sitting in a dorm room.”
“I always think I’m paying thousands of dollars to be here and it’s not what they promised me last Fall,” French said. “But with my family it’s like, ‘You’re not there for the experience, you’re there to get the diploma at the end of the day,’ and that’s definitely part of my mindset in this, but it’s still really disappointing and really hard to cope with it all.”
Although she feels that coming to campus this semester has been a rewarding experience, French said she can’t be sure BU is the right school for her. She said it’s difficult to determine if this uncertainty is related more to the pandemic or to simply being a freshman at a new school.
French has tried multiple means to get in contact with others on campus, to varying degrees of success. She said she has not made any lasting connections nor did she have a great experience in her one-credit First Year Experience class. French found more success in the Class of 2024 Facebook page, where she was able to meet and connect with other students.
With the pandemic producing an atmosphere of isolation on campus, BU’s Student Health Services serves as a means for students to get the emotional assistance they need. However, French said she was confused about logistics when she first reached out to SHS.
“I had to visit Student Health Services and it was a big mess-up because I didn’t know who to contact. I didn’t know if I could show up there,” French said. “But when you get there, it’s really helpful.”
Alyssa Yeh, a junior in the College of Communication, said connecting with SHS is straightforward, but only for those already familiar with it.
“Once you are plugged in and have an awareness of the Behavioral Health Services at BU, it’s easier to navigate,” Yeh said. “But if you’re coming as an outsider for the first time, it can seem a little overwhelming.”
Though it may be initially daunting to seek out support from SHS, Yeh said the Patient Connect Portal is an effective tool for getting in contact with the right contact to provide the support necessary.
Ultimately, campus life at BU this semester has rendered many students without an easy means of forming connections, leaving some to question whether the experience is worth sticking with.
“I feel like we’re paying $80,000 for a streaming service,” Cory said. “It doesn’t feel like school.”