Freshmen year is a challenge for everyone. Students struggle with homesickness, figuring out their major and finding new friends. In the midst of a global pandemic, these things are exacerbated, and additional challenges are placed upon new students. Since Northwestern has been able to return to more normalcy, this year’s sophomores are grateful for the change. In some ways, the 2021-2022 school year is a repeat of their freshmen year as now they are finally able to get the full NW experience.
One of the biggest differences from this year’s sophomores is the removal of the common space mask mandate.
“[Wearing a mask] felt really impersonal,” Amber Post said. “I know everyone tried their best to make sure the freshmen felt welcomed, but it was really weird coming to a new place and never getting to hang out with more than six people in a dorm room or walk to my community bathroom without wearing a mask.”
Other students shared the same realizations about how mask wearing, while important and necessary, hindered their freshmen experience.
“I learned this year that we take emotions cues from other people’s facial expressions, so making social bonds with masks is many times harder than without,” Gideon Fynaardt explained.
This year, students are feeling much more adjusted and able to live in community with each other.
“The best part of this year has been spending time with friends and having more freedom to hang out with more people,” Shaylee Yates said. “I’m looking forward to doing more of the same and meeting more people.”
In addition to masking, Jillian Simon notes that social distancing and canceling many annual campus events like dances and Steggy Keggy made it difficult to make new friends. She laments that for a while she struggled to make friends outside of her soccer team. Fortunately, many students were eventually able to find their places on campus socially, and this year all SAC and dorm events are back.
“I get excited because we’re able to do stuff like homecoming or like Steggy Keggy,” Maddie Loats said. “And I know it’s weird to look forward to Coly Christmas, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Students are also excited with SAC changes this year that the new director of student programs, Lucas Heiberger, has made. Clayton Brouwer explains that he felt like student activities weren’t very well advertised last year and he didn’t always know what was going on.
“I feel like Lucas always let’s us know ‘Hey, here’s what’s going on!’” Brouwer said.
Another change from last year that sophomores happily welcome is the cafeteria returning to self-serving stations every day.
“I love pizza,” Maddie DenHerder said. “So it’s really nice that we got the pizza line and ice cream machine back.”
Chapel is also back to its normal location and attendance policy, but unlike upperclassmen, some of the sophomores either didn’t mind or are missing the iAttended app.
“The iAttended routine became like really normal, especially coming from fully online high school,” Brouwer said. “It didn’t really feel like a nuisance until I talked to upperclassmen. Everybody was so aggressive about it, and I was like, ‘I’m cool with it.’”
DenHerder states that she misses using the iAttended app.
“It definitely gave me a visual reason to go to chapel- because I’m a very visual person- so, like, I have to go to chapel so I can scan my thing.”
She still keeps the app on her phone as a handy visual tracker for her chapel credits.
All in all, the sophomores are very glad to be getting more of a normal NW experience this year. Some of them feel like this year is a repeat of their first year, while others felt more confident coming into their second year, but they all agree that life on campus is much better this year, or as Fynaardt puts it: “It feels more colorful this year.”