Starting College in a Pandemic
Bailey Towill has been eagerly awaiting her freshman year. The Los Angeles native took a gap year after graduating from high school in 2019. “All of my friends have been in college for a year now, so I’m excited to go to school and meet new people,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to getting a change of scenery, too.”
Towill chose UC Davis with the help of her older brother, who is currently attending. After visiting him several times, she fell in love with the campus.
However, when UC Davis announced that classes would be held remotely, the English major made the decision to stay at home. “Originally, I was thinking about getting an apartment, but I thought I might as well figure out the school side of it while I’m home and get used to that adjustment,” she said. “That way, by the time I do go to Davis, I’ll be in the swing of things. I think it will make the transition easier.”
Towill’s freshman experience is similar to that of all incoming college students who now are faced with starting school amid a global crisis. UC Davis fall quarter begins Sept. 30. Students will take classes mostly via computer and adjust to this new period of their lives from the comfort of their homes, apartments and single dorm rooms.
Despite the distance, Towill said she is dedicated to getting the college experience. “Meeting people hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be. I’ve already met a couple of people, and my brother knows a lot of people too, so that helps.”
Towill said she is aware of how unique her freshman year will be, but she’s determined to stay positive. “I think it’s going to be a really good story someday,” she said. “I’m obviously sad because I wish I could have the ‘normal’ experience, but at the end of the day, I’ll probably do better in school remotely, so that’s a bonus. And we will all get to go eventually. It’s not forever.”
Although classes are remote, Francis Schumann will move into a dorm later this month. Living on campus is a part of the college experience that he is determined to have. “UC Davis has announced that all the dorms would be singles,” said Schumann. “The move-in dates are going to be staggered over a longer period of time for safety reasons.”
The Santa Monica native originally planned to share a double in Segundo with his chosen roommate. But due to the pandemic, his roommate is remaining in Thailand. “I guess the singles worked out because I wouldn’t have had a roommate either way,” said Schumann.
Schumann knows that living on campus this fall will be dramatically different than what he had envisioned, but he already has his eye on several extracurricular activities and is interested in joining the water polo club team.
The pandemic has already taught Schumann about flexibility. He graduated high school in a pre-recorded ceremony and other milestones were canceled. Despite the setbacks, he said he’s looking forward to college.
“This is a really crazy time to go to college, but I’m intrigued by the situation,” he said. “This is the first year with this newly adapted college experience. We are the first people to enter college at this time, and I don’t think it’s ever going to be the ‘normal’ experience again. So this is really an interesting turning point for all of us.”
The COVID-19 pandemic actually led Mia Sill to pick UC Davis. “I was planning on going out of state, but when the pandemic hit it impacted everything, and it was clear that staying in California made the most sense.”
Sill had only been to Davis once for a soccer tournament but knew she liked it. “I have a mutual friend who goes to UC Davis now, and she has gotten me really excited about it and my best friend from home is also going,” said the Bakersfield native.
When UC Davis announced that dorms would be single occupancy, Sill changed her plans. “I didn’t want to live alone,” explained the animal science major. She and her roommate began apartment hunting and found a two-bedroom close to campus. But those plans changed, too.
“Housing took some crazy turns,” said Sill. “My roommate is no longer coming at all because her parents are worried about the pandemic. So now I’m living with my best friend from home in an apartment off-campus. If I was going to live with anyone, I’m glad it’s him. We’ve known each other our whole lives.”
Like Schumann, Sill already has identified several extracurricular activities. “I’m excited to rush [a sorority] so I can meet some new people. I want to get involved in some clubs and intramural sports if those are going to happen.”
And now Sill is focused on her fall quarter math class. “I’ve already been getting emails from my calc professor,” said Sill laughing. “Students posted their schedules online so now I’m in this big math group chat about class and assignments. But I’m excited. Everything will work out.”