First Person Experience: Sophomores find community after missing freshman experience

Sophomores Peter Trinh, Hassan Amman and Melissa Capacte meet outside the Campus Center to discuss the challenges they’ve experienced during their first year of being on campus since the beginning of 2020. After their senior year of high school was finished online and their entire freshman year was online as well, this is the first time in two years that these students come back to in person classes and there have been major adjustments that have been made to come back to campus. / photo by Shira O'Neal-Abend
Sophomores Peter Trinh, Hassan Amman and Melissa Capacte meet outside the Campus Center to discuss the challenges they’ve experienced during their first year of being on campus since the beginning of 2020. After their senior year of high school was finished online and their entire freshman year was online as well, this is the first time in two years that these students come back to in person classes and there have been major adjustments that have been made to come back to campus. / photo by Shira O’Neal-Abend

Taylor Moore
LV Life Editor

I can still remember the feeling of excitement I had about two things, my senior year of high school and my first year of college. 

I had watched dozens of cliché movies about the beautiful prom dresses and families cheering at their child’s graduation. I had heard countless stories from my older friends and family about how much they enjoyed that first year of college, how different it was from high school, how many new friends they made. I had been looking forward to all of it since I was young. 

No one could anticipate that I, along with the rest of the sophomore students, would not be able to experience either of those. 

The pandemic was completely unexpected to everyone. The majority of students were probably excited at first to get time off from school, but then the closures hit and the seniors of 2020 were told that prom, senior events, and graduation would not be possible due to COVID safety measures. 

“You work 12 years of your life going to school every day, your senior year was that year where you have fun and all your hard work pays off,” Peter Trinh, sophomore business major, said. “Without getting that second half, it’s kind of like, ‘Wow, we did all this for nothing.’” 

After I had accepted that the second half of my senior year was lost, I began to motivate myself by saying, “It’s okay. There’s always college, as long as I get to go back to school for freshman year.” 

Then, the University of La Verne announced that the fall semester of 2020 would be remote. 

Okay, there’s always the spring semester 2021.

Fast forward to the spring, the University announced that remote learning would continue. 

For the freshmen last year, it was a lonely and stressful time. 

“For my freshman year, I had two jobs working seven days a week and I had to deal with school,” Hector Lomeli, sophomore criminology major, said. 

“My parents had COVID,” Lomeli added. “So I had to work extra hours at my jobs. My mental health was horrible. That made my grades drop and I went into academic probation.” 

Emily Quirarte, sophomore psychology major, said the hardest part about being remote was that she was losing friends from high school but was not making any in college. 

She said that, as an extrovert, she likes to be around other people and live off their emotions. There were some people she would talk to through private messaging in class, but she did not know them on a personal level. 

“Zoom friends meant so much,” Quirarte said. “The private chats in class, but then once that class ended, I was back to being lonely.” 

Like Quirarte, I consider myself an extrovert. The change from constantly being around people every day to being at home was the hardest part, especially as an only child with parents who still had to work and were hardly home. 

I needed the social connection, so I did my best at turning on my camera and microphone in hopes of making connections in my Zoom classes. Luckily, others were craving the same thing, so I was able to form those connections. 

Finally, the University made the announcement everyone had been waiting for: Sophomore year would be in-person. 

I felt like a freshman even though I’m a sophomore. 

This would be the first time truly walking around a college campus. The joy I felt at being able to attend school in person completely outweighed the nerves. I was finally able to meet the friends I had made online face-to-face and meet new people after more than a year of isolation. 

Most of the sophomores said the transition from remote to in-person was seamless since they had been waiting for so long. 

Marianna Hernandez, sophomore digital media major, said that it felt like a relief to be around people after making zero friends last year. 

“It feels like, ‘Finally, I get to meet new people, I get to make friends,’” Hernandez said. “A whole year without any friends and hanging out was depressing. Now, it’s much better, I feel more comfortable and included. I’m happier.” 

Melissa Capacte, sophomore kinesiology major, said the beginning of the year was hard for her since she had lost her grandpa, aunt, and uncle to COVID. Making friends helped her get through the loss since she had missed having someone be there to listen and comfort her. 

“(My friends and I) make sure to do our part so we can continue seeing each other,” Capacte said. “This year, coming to campus (and) finally seeing so many faces, you never imagine being friends with the ones you have now. Now, I can’t imagine life without them.” 

Lomeli said that he was able to pick his grades up now that school is in-person. 

He said he loves coming to campus to hang out with the friends he’s made. 

“I don’t even have classes on Thursdays and Fridays, but I still come to campus to hang out with my friends,” he said. 

Quirarte said she joined a sorority this year to make friends, loves all of the different personalities of the women, and that it feels great to be social again. 

“I’m a social butterfly, to be in the alpha chapter of the school, we’re known,” Quirarte said. “Other people know us. There’s always a new entryway to meet new people.” 

She also joined the honor society, Alpha Lambda Delta, and she works in the Campus Center. 

She said it feels great to be involved and can feel the difference already. 

For Trinh, the experience was a little different. He said that he was not in a good mental place when the University announced that on-campus learning would return, and he was not looking forward to it since he was not emotionally prepared to be around people after such a hard previous year. 

“I can say now, with the group of friends I have, coming back to campus was a good thing,” Trinh said. “I’m grateful for that since the University opened up and we finally have a full year in-person. There’s some days that I don’t have classes but I still come to campus after not having that for almost two years.” 

I have to remind myself sometimes that I’m in my second year of college and not my first, that I will only have three years of true college experience. 

The thought of forming new connections with other students and my professors quickly makes the negativity of freshman year fade away. 

It feels too good to be back on campus to focus on anything else. 

Taylor Moore can be reached at taylor.moore@laverne.edu.

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