OPINION | Freshmen suffer socially after COVID-19

Jolyon Breckon, Contributing Writer

(Hailie Goldthorpe)

2020 saw closed borders, restrictive travel and fear taking hold in ways our generation had yet to see. While no one was free from the global changes we saw due to COVID-19, young adults faced a particular set of lockdown-related issues.

Adolescence is a time of drastic social development. For high schoolers, social experiences vary widely. Some students may thrive in their social environments while others struggle. Students have the opportunity to become enriched socially, but they also face subsequent pitfalls that come from a lack of social engagement or isolation.

While studies observed the issue of social isolation in adolescents prior to the COVID-19 lockdowns, it had never been observed on a societal scale. Several million high school students engaged with some sort of distance learning in the fall of 2022. Distance learning entailed little-to-no in-person attendance of classes and school-related activities. Though many schools attempted to recreate such activities with online equivalents, the engaged, face-to-face element of such activities is irreplaceable. 

Not only were these students robbed of activities that could only be performed in person — such as athletics and music — but they were also deprived of the social relationships that form during these experiences. Through extracurricular engagement, students connect with each other and form meaningful relationships that are integral to young adulthood.

The students who suffered most from such social isolation are, thankfully, finally able to make up for the time they lost. Tulane University freshman Reese Ragland from Louisville, Kentucky said, “I feel really lucky that [COVID-19] doesn’t quite have a presence here, or at least we all act like it doesn’t exist.” 

Though she counted herself lucky as to only be minorly affected by COVID-19 compared to others, Ragland said, “I truly only had about a year and a half of normal high school, and this meant I didn’t have the experience so many other people had.” 

Like countless other freshmen, Resse missed out the formative social experiences that many older students take for granted. Thankfully, she said, “Honestly COVID has kind of moved towards not really having an effect on me anymore, and it feels crazy being so far away from that part of my life while it was so recent.” 

Those same opportunities for social interaction and joyful activities that high school students missed out on are abundant in most colleges, particularly at Tulane. Though some of us may not be able to recover years lost to isolation, those of us lucky enough to be in college have a unique chance to make up for the opportunities we lost to COVID-19. The chance for engagement provided by Tulane’s clubs, organizations and classes are some of the simplest ways to dive back into an immersive social experience that so many students missed out on.

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