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Mental Health

UMD Freshmen Deal with First-Year Anxiety amid COVID-19 Pandemic

For many, 2020 has been a year full of uncertainty and stress because of the coronavirus pandemic. For those attending college for the first time, they dealt with all the regular stress of finding a roommate, choosing classes and moving to a new place on top of stress about the pandemic. First-year college students around the country had the ability to choose to go to campus or take classes from home, as many universities and colleges transitioned their classes online this semester. 

The fall semester at the University of Maryland has been interesting for first-year women both at home and on campus. As finals are rapidly approaching, and those who chose to travel for Thanksgiving break learned they won’t be able to return afterward, people have mixed emotions about the constant change we’re living in.

Freshman journalism and government and politics major Lydia Hurley chose to live on campus this semester. Overall, she said her experience has been good, as she’s gotten used to the workload and finding time during her schedule to get her work completed. Despite the barriers of the pandemic, Hurley has been able to join many organizations on campus and meet people through Zoom. 

“It’s  stressful to be here during the pandemic, but most people are responsible, so it’s been okay,” Hurley said. 

Hurley said to drive out the stress, she started exercising. She joined CHAARG — a women’s workout club — to motivate her, and said that self care and taking a break between her work has allowed her to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Woman doing deadlift
Photo by Anastase Maragos from Unsplash

Freshman communications major Leah Kellert also joined what limited campus life this university offered this semester. With the semester rapidly approaching its end, Kellert has been feeling more adjusted to life in college. She managed to finalize a daily routine, which made her weekly schedules a lot easier.

Throughout the pandemic, Kellert has stressed about how to spend time with friends, be social and get to know the campus. Since all of her classes are online this semester, Kellert hasn’t been able to become familiar with campus buildings. This may be the case for a lot of freshmen as the majority of classes were fully online this semester, and have since moved 100% online starting Nov. 16.

“One way I have coped was spending time with friends, socially distanced, of course,” Kellert said. 

One of the many benefits of this university’s campus is the large expanse of land, in which socially distanced hangouts are doable. Kellert has also explored the campus by taking walks and listening to music, as a way to regain her focus.

close-up of woman holding white headphones around her neck

Michaela Yee, a freshman enrolled in letters and sciences, is one of many students who chose to stay home this semester. Overall, Yee said she is glad that the semester is coming to a close. She has found it harder to live off-campus as it is difficult to make new friends and form study groups. 

“Some TAs tried to make an optional study group for people, but it’s very awkward since we don’t know them and usually hide behind a camera that’s not on,” Yee said.

This is one of the major challenges of online classes. Students lose the interpersonal connections they’d make in-person. Some classes require cameras to be on, but many don’t, leading professors to lecture at black boxes. When placed into breakout rooms, people can only hear each other’s voices.


Because Yee lives about 30 minutes from the campus, she sometimes visits friends on campus, socially distanced.

Freshman journalism major Bridgetta Ulrich chose to move on-campus this semester. Despite the uncertainties of the pandemic, she said she believes this semester has been good for her. 

At the start of the semester, many places on campus were closed or open for appointments only. As the year progressed places like the Stamp Student Union have increased hours, allowing people to come in without scheduled times. Now, as coronavirus cases are back on the rise, restrictions are being reinstated once again. 

As the semester is coming to a close, Ulrich said she is now more anxious about what might be in store for the spring. 

To break the endless cycle of recurring stress, Ulrich has made sure to take breaks from being inside, especially after staring at a computer for multiple hours a day. She has also broken up her work time with some time to hang out, socially distanced, with friends.

“I think [this semester] was still pretty chaotic because we never know what is going to happen next,” Ulrich said.

Sophomore at the University of Maryland. Continuing my journey in journalism piece by piece.
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