Life as a Member of the Class of 2024: Suffermore Year?

Due to the global pandemic, most of the students from the class of 2024 went to “Zoom University” last year. They didn’t know how it feels to be in the classroom, talk to professors in-person, or even chat with friends in Commons. Everything about Bates is completely fresh to them: they are freshmen too. 

In August 2020, all the students from the class of 2024 started their careers at Bates on Zoom. They had an online convocation and a two-hour YouTube video talking about Green Dot. That’s all. Classes started in late August. Bates adopted “modules,” which means one semester was divided into two modules, and students needed to take two courses each module. Each module lasted for seven weeks, so all the courses were intense due to the short time period. 

As we all know, First-Year Seminar (FYS) is an important course for the freshmen: it’s where students learn how to read and write on a college level. Those who took their FYS online last year only got 5 courses to choose from. “They roughly covered all the areas: one for social science, one for engineering, one for arts, one for humanity, and one for natural science. What I wanted to take was not on the list,”  shared Danny Liu ‘24. “Even though I [was able to study on] campus later, it was still hard to do class discussions. Everyone sat far from each other. I had to shout to make other classmates hear me.” 

These circumstances were even harder for international students. Due to travel policies, more than half of the international students stayed in their hometown to complete their studies in their first year. For students who were on the other side of the world, they had to stay up until 4 a.m. each day to attend online classes. Star Yang ’24 shared that she went to bed at 7 p.m. and woke up at midnight every day. After she finished the first two modules, she felt she suffered too much because of the terrible schedule, ultimately leading to her decision to take a gap year. 

However, when she came to the campus this summer, she was confused about whether she belongs to the class of 2024 or the class of 2025; she feels that she is in the class of 24.5. “I always chat and hang out with people from the class of 2025. I feel the bond with [them] better than the class of 2024.”

College is where people learn to grow up. We choose our lives here. What should I do today? Who should I talk to? Which course should I take? How do I spend money? How do I hang out with friends? Can I get along well with my roommates? We think about these questions after we leave our family and the home we’ve lived in for 18 years. 

We have no protection now; it’s time to be an adult. However, for the class of 2024, the adjustment is a bit different. “I still lived with my parents…they still cooked for me,” said Chris Lu ’24, who stayed in his home and did all his classes online. “When I was taking online courses, I felt every day was the same. When I came to the campus, I could decide on my own. My life is in my hands now.” 

When August 2021 arrived, all students returned to campus. While first-years were experiencing orientation, sophomores were still trying to figure out the way from Commons to their dorm.“I know nothing about the campus. I depend completely on the map.” said Kyra Wang ‘24, who took a gap year after taking a semester of online courses. Some sophomores even returned to campus early to experience orientation, participating in activities such as international students’ circle, tie dye, movie night, and skating. 

Campus social life is an important part of college life. The past two years have been a great challenge and a real-life experiment for education. Education is not only about the things we learn in books and in the classroom; it also has to do with shared experience and feelings.  For the class of 2024, they are still trying to solve problems from last year. For everyone, it is time to rethink the meaning of education and how to grow up.