Second-year students talk transition to a “normal” semester

Sophia Sailer, news editor

On Aug. 18, 2021, the first COVID-19 cases of this school year were presented on the Minnesota State University Dashboard. Unlike last year, this dashboard features all Minnesota State colleges and universities. Also unlike last year, so far there have only been 33 cases since the beginning of the school year.
“This data includes positive COVID test results reported to campus by the Minnesota Department of Health and local public health officials, as well as self-reported positive COVID test results in the campus community,” the Minnesota State Dashboard stated.
This year, many “normal” traditions at Winona State University have occurred again, having been absent last year due to the pandemic. Traditions such as in-person classes, “welcome back”-style events, large non-Zoom events with crowds of people, such as club fairs and the “I Heart WSU” event. Even having roommates in on-campus housing and simply seeings students and faculty flood the main campus courtyard outside when walking to classes.
For many students, this change brings new feelings of happiness and joy. For first-year students, they are just excited to have a shot at experiencing college life in a somewhat “normal” vein. For third-years, fourth-years and up, going “back to normal” is an easy switch; a normalcy they have been missing for the past year.
But for some second-year students, this year has still felt different than other experiences. Not only did many 2020 graduates miss the end of their high school senior years, prom and graduation, they missed the traditional first-year-of-college experience.
Last school year, Winona State had two roommate options for on-campus living: live with three roommates in Haake Hall, which have separate bedrooms, or living with no roommates in the other various dorms on Main and West campuses.
Students who chose to live with roommates in Haake Hall were stuck with their roommates, so if they were partying, they were stuck in a very unsafe environment. Students who chose to live in a “Super Single” (or a double room that occupies one person) were not allowed visitors from outside Winona State (or from other halls, at a certain point). This created a push from Winona State to offer Zoom events and further inform students on mental health help options at the university, including on-campus counselors.
When students did quarantine, the isolation meals were not ready until a couple of weeks after students came to campus, so some students scrambled to get food whilst quarantined.
And while all of this was happening, the counseling services offered at the university were capped at six sessions per student, per semester.
However, counseling services were once again introduced to first-year students this year during freshman orientation week, prior to the fall semester beginning. This is another experience the freshman class last year missed, yet, many became orientation leaders themselves this year.
Joshua Hebrink, a second-year student at Winona State, disagrees with the notion of having a second orientation for those now second-year students.
“I don’t even remember orientation from last year and I honestly feel bad for the people that are in my orientation group this year because they can tell that I don’t care about it,” Hebrink said.
Hebrink also expressed that he feels like a first-year student this year, which is a common theme among a lot of second-year students. Some second-year students feel like they’re disconnected from the community because of the unresolved grief last year brought.
The six-appointment limit for counseling services remains the same this year. Some students wish there was a support group for students going through trauma from last year, or as a way to outlet their lingering anxieties.
Many second-year students are feeling hopeful this year, due to the more relaxed stance that Winona State has taken this year. Winona State is requiring masks in indoor settings at least for the first couple of weeks of the fall semester and are requiring vaccination or are regular COVID testing.
Second-year business administration student Michael Amanlwah is one of the hopeful students.
“Winona is handling COVID well this year with the [continued] mask requirement. The decrease in admissions this year is sad, because in my eyes, the more students the better. I want this year to be memorable and feel like what college is supposed to feel like,” Amanlwah said.