Starting Loyola as a Freshman

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This year is one for the history books. With a raging pandemic forcing schools to go virtual, it can be incredibly difficult to adapt to this new environment. Students across the country are struggling to find ways to cope with the stress that comes with starting a new grade. This is especially relevant to current high school freshmen. With the increase in homework, the pressure of making new friends, and the amount of time spent on our computers, the levels of anxiety can be overwhelming sometimes. 

The stress can be so taxing for some that focusing in class and staying motivated to do homework and other assignments may become difficult. In my personal experience, adjusting to the workload was very difficult coming from a very easy school where we had a lot less work. It may have been easier for someone who has already gone through the rigorous freshman year at Loyola, but for me, this stressful learning environment is something brand new.

For others, however, the transition has been smooth. 

Freshman Ryan Turk says, “The difficulty level is about a six or a seven because I think that this is about the same level as it would be on campus.” 

Even though tests and homework can seem like the most pressing issues at the moment, making friends is arguably more important for students’ success at Loyola. Friends are not only there for you socially but also make your life easier, whether they’re someone to study with or— most importantly for me—someone to have at your side while you are going through rough times. However, making friends may be difficult if you are the only one to have matriculated from your middle school. 

Freshman Steven Prunier Herman says, “One good way to get to meet and interact with new people is by setting up beach days with some classmates.”

Time with friends, even if it is just communicating on the phone, has been a great way to break up all the time spent on my laptop. Blue light radiation, in particular, is a main reason why staying on the computer screen for extended periods of time can be so arduous. According to a study done by Harvard Medical School, the blue light coming from your phone suppresses your sleep by 1.5 hours compared to regular light. In short, if you are looking at the screen, the secretion, or the release of melatonin (the chemical released by the brain to help you fall asleep) is limited. This is not good for people who study on Quizlet right up until bedtime. But sleep deprivation and eye strain are not the only side effects; everyone gets restless sitting down all day, and we just want a break from being on a confined schedule to enjoy something other than schoolwork.

Luckily, Loyola has our best interests in mind and has just tested out asynchronous learning, a new format of online learning where we aren’t on screens at all. Our two asynchronous days provided a good break from all the screen time and the quotidian hustle and bustle that is the Loyola distance learning day. One fun asynchronous assignment that I particularly enjoyed was in health, where I had to go for a twenty minute workout and calculate my resting heart rate and the percent of our max heart rate I’d achieved. This workout was an extremely refreshing break from typical daily assignments. 

Loyola has also been extremely mindful by jumping over serious hurdles to ensure a freshman retreat was still happening. But, as I am sure you have heard, the pandemic has cheated us out of the true nature of the freshmen retreat. Some upperclassmen that I have talked to said that they got to spend the night at school and play all sorts of fun games. 

Sophomore Christopher McCarthy says, “We were driven to our big brother’s house to just hang out there. Later on in the evening, a member of the faculty would join us and talk about spirituality.” 

This must have been a very special experience, and even though we didn’t get to experience this, our retreat was still a little taste of what could have been.

On a more positive note, the pandemic has brought some good to the Loyola community: The counselors have been able to meet with us individually with freshmen to chat, get us acclimated, inquire about classes and just get to know us better. Also, we as freshmen got to have the experience of Cura Period. In Cura Period, our Cub Year One, or CY1 for short, facilitators meet with us to see how we are settling into the Loyola community.

All of the stressors of being online in high school can be overwhelming, but regardless, there are certainly many positives that have come out of this situation.

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