Op-Ed: Caroline Champa ’20 on Freshman Year at Conn College

Caroline Champa, Editor-in-Chief

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  • Carolina Champa ’20 shows off her dorm room at Conn.

  • Carolina Champa ’20 (second from front right) poses in a team picture with the Connecticut College tennis team.

  • Carolina Champa ’20 (second from front left) poses in a team picture with the Connecticut College squash team.

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I had always imagined the perfect fall semester at college: a nice roommate, in-person classes, sports practices, and hanging out with friends. This dream changed drastically as the pandemic of our senior year carried into the fall of 2020. The global pandemic was far from over. 

While different from my dreams, my freshman year at Connecticut College has been quite positive and certainly one for the books. As the School’s Class of 2021 prepares to graduate and move into college, take comfort in the knowledge that you are well prepared for what will be a “more normal” first-year college experience. 

I embarked on my new journey on August 29, 2020, with the car packed full of stuff required of every college freshman; including masks, hand sanitizer, and a thermometer—three items I never thought I would need for college. After arriving on campus, I checked in, took a COVID-19 test, signed their honor pledge, and moved in. 

As the end of my first year at college draws near, it feels like yesterday that I squeezed my dad tight and said my goodbyes. I had no idea when I would see him again or what was ahead in a world turned upside down by the pandemic. 

While challenging at some points, Conn enforced a set of rules to ensure the health and safety of the community. Masks were worn at all times, unless you were in your room, eating meals, or showering. Students were discouraged from traveling off-campus for non-essential reasons. Traveling out of state for any reason resulted in a two-week quarantine or 4 negative COVID-19 tests.  There was plenty to keep track of beyond the normal worries about class assignments and the traditional freshman concerns. 

I embarked on my new journey on August 29, 2020, with the car packed full of stuff required of every college freshman; including masks, hand sanitizer, and a thermometer—three items I never thought I would need for college.”

In the movies, freshman year is all about socializing with your peers, eating meals, making memories with your roommates, none of which any of us could do for the first few weeks. Meals were take-out only, and in-person events were delayed until the community achieved “level yellow status,” a complex combination of active Covid cases on campus and rules required of everyone in the Conn College community. 

I asked classmates to go for walks around campus to make friends. In October, tennis and squash practices allowed me to replace my tears with smiles. I often thought of the caring community at Brimmer and missed my old friends and teachers. Change is hard, but Conn is now my home. 

My typical fall day would include one to two Zoom classes a day, two sports practices, and two weekly COVID-19 tests. The routine was becoming comfortable and I felt like I was at Brimmer again: going to school, sports, and then homework, I was happy. 

November came quickly and soon I moved home for the extended winter break, not to return until February. As a homebody, being home was fun but after a while, I would not wait to come back. 

This spring semester has gone by in a blink of an eye! 

I joined the Eye-to-Eye Chapter, a club for students with learning differences. When in-person activities resume in the fall, we will travel to an art room in the New London community to do fun art projects with sixth-graders. We will also share our stories and experiences of coping with learning disabilities. 

Athletics resumed competition in April, so I was able to participate in tennis and squash matches on the weekends. On-campus activities were limited due to the pandemic, so weekend competitions made my days more exciting. 

While the results from this season were not what we hoped for, the experience was incredible. The women’s and men’s teams were very supportive of one another and the level of competition provided new challenges that I have been wanting to experience. 

The college announced the return to in–person classes for the fall of 2021. I am excited for my sophomore year, a time when my classmates from the class of 2024 can have a somewhat back-to-normal college experience and a year to further explore interests as I need to declare my major at the end of next year.   

Editors’ note: Caroline Champa ’20 served as Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Gator for the 2019-2020 academic year.