How students can make the most of their college experience in the midst of a new normal

Students at Suffolk University started this semester in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, which calls into question how students can salvage their “college experience” while navigating the university’s COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. 

While the “typical college experience” we thought of before is no longer a possibility, now is the best time to adapt to this new world because everyone essentially has a clean slate. Now is the time to not only start fresh but to also choose a new way to make your college experience your own.

This year, students were given the choice to either learn remotely from their homes or to live on campus in modified living situations within the dorms or in hotels used by the university.

According to the campus’ reopening guide, all students must follow new restrictions, such as wearing masks, social distancing around people on campus by about six feet and abiding by crowd reduction and limitations in hallways, classrooms and other spaces around campus. Suffolk is enforcing a zero-tolerance policy for any student who breaks these rules. 

With these new mandates, it certainly paints a different picture of the typical college experience returning Suffolk students would usually look forward to when starting another school year. 

“I would say I miss my friends and being involved and really having my face out there,” said Briana Forgione, a Suffolk junior who chose to learn remotely at home. “Right now it just seems like the place where I learn and live is meshed into one.”

To break up living and learning spaces, it may help to take walks in between classes if students are able to. It also may help to book a library spot or classroom where students can use to study, that way students can keep their dorms as more of a living and resting space. 

While many classes have been held remotely and a notable portion of new students have  chosen to stay home, many clubs on campus are still meeting, even if most of their meetings are over Zoom.

“I would say getting involved still is important because even though we’re not on campus right now, clubs are still offering meetings virtually, so I would say as being like a commuter that’s a great way to better connect new and old students safely and still feel connected right now,” said Forgione, speaking about how she still attends meetings for Suffolk’s Program Council.

Students can learn what clubs they can join at Suffolk clubs by visiting the university’s websites. Many clubs have social media accounts that also give a good idea of what events or activities they do. 

As for freshman students on campus, many have faced the difficulty of finding new ways to interact with their new peers and making memories while being safe and abiding by campus policies.

“I think it’s a great time to get out of your dorm and kind of explore the city because you can’t really stay inside your dorm and hang out with people,” said Colin Doherty, a freshman who is living in the dorms at 10 West.

Students can easily explore some exciting new places in Boston by going with friends to the Esplanade, visiting the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) and the Seaport area by the Harbor, as well as finding food fixes at Bova’s in the North End and Bubble Tea shops in Chinatown.

Doherty offers the advice that he and his friends are following to stay positive and strong while making the most out of their college experience. 

“Just accept the situation and kind of really just go with it,” Doherty said “I think that most kids have really just been riding this rough wave but we just take care of each other and be smart.”

With the myriad of clubs and events on campus moving to virtual options, it certainly offers plenty of opportunities for students both virtual and on-campus to get involved and feel connected to others despite the effects on campus life from COVID-19. 

Follow Jasmine on Twitter @JFrancoeur18.