The first semester of college was definitely not a normal one for incoming freshmen. Filled with social distancing rules among a variety of CDC guidelines, all students experienced college in a way they never had before. But, even though all freshmen at the University of Maryland had the opportunity to live on campus, some chose to stay at home for the first semester. For freshmen moving onto this university’s campus for the first time in January, here are some tips to help your first semester in College Park be a successful one.
1. Mask up 4 Maryland!
Bring many masks to wear on campus. On campus, everyone wears masks when walking around, so you should always wear one and have an extra supply. Bring a Maryland mask and show off your school spirit as you walk around McKeldin Mall and the Stamp Student Union. You should definitely keep an extra mask in your backpack in case of an emergency, too. Of course, there are other supplies to bring as well such as hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and Lysol. Bring a can of Lysol to leave in your shower caddy, so you can spray down the bathroom shower before and after you use it.
2. Explore this university's beautiful campus
Take lots of walks around campus. With most classes being taught online, students get stuck in their dorm rooms for longer periods of the day. In order to keep myself sane, I arranged many socially distanced walks with my friends. We walked all over campus, but our favorite walk was to McKeldin Mall. The gorgeous views at the mall definitely relaxed me when I was stressed out over a big assignment or exam. Although the winter will be colder, walks will still be key, so be sure to bring warm gear and plan on walking and learning the campus, so you’re prepared when classes are finally back in person.
3. No roommate, no problem
Don't worry about not having a roommate. At first, many students were pretty bummed about not getting the chance to share a room with our intended roommates. But, with the coronavirus pandemic making most of our classes online, having your own space during class time is key. Plus, the university tried to put intended roommates at least on the same floor. My roommate lived right across the hall from me, and we both got tested regularly, so we could hang out and bond in similar ways that roommates do.
4. Harness your inner interior decorator
Skip the extra storage bins and bring an extra set of bedding. You don’t need all of the extra storage you would normally need in a shared room. Leave the extra under bed storage at home. Don’t worry, all of your Maryland gear will fit. Definitely think about the different options you have for your room. You can look online at the creative ways people arranged their rooms during the first semester. You can turn an extra bed into a couch, creating another place to lounge and do work. Or, you could push the two twins together for a bed bigger than a king. An extra desk shelf can also hold your TV or work as a nightstand.
5. Don’t get in a food rut, switch it up
Try all of the different types of food at the dining hall. The dining hall was a different experience this year, with limited choices due to takeout being the only option for a period of time. Because of this, it's easy to get in a rut and eat the same food every day, and that's repetitive. So when you are bored with the food, switch it up and try something new. Also, remember to treat yourself once in a while to a delivery from one of the great restaurants on Route 1.
6. Keep calm and carry on
Remain calm. Living on a college campus during a pandemic is difficult. When you hear that someone you know or someone on your floor tested positive for COVID-19, it can be hard not to immediately panic. During this especially stressful time, try to not stress out too much. This university has protocols established on what to do if you think you might have been exposed or if you feel sick.
7. Making Connections
Put yourself out there. Even though it can be hard to meet new people during a pandemic, the university makes it easy to do so. You will meet people on your floor and should definitely make an effort to knock on people’s doors. When you go outside the dorms, you will always see students socially distanced outside. Don’t be afraid to say hello. Whether it's a socially distanced study date or a group playing soccer on one of the fields, anyone can join. Making friends this semester was easy because of how welcoming the University of Maryland community is. Every freshman faced the same situation. We all wanted to try and have a normal college experience during a very unusual time.