The freshman year of college gives so much of itself that it is almost a genre of comedy in itself. And it is that from the hand of the academic challenge (which there is), comes a new life: the freedom of adulthood, new friendships and if it implies a change of city, stays in residences or student flats, with the consequent disembarkation in the adult life with tasks like ironing clothes or frying an egg. Last year’s rookies faced off against a bigger and unexpected change: the COVID-19 pandemic. How did your experience of starting college change?
We have interviewed four students who started university last year (2019-2020). They do not know each other, they are from different cities and they study very different careers … and in some cases, in this period they have even taken a new turn at the helm and changed careers. And is that if the abandonment rate in the first year is 18%, in this era COVID-19 invites greater disaffection and the effects are already being noticed. It’s time for introductions:
Nerea Roldan He began to study Applied Sociology at the Public University of Navarra, he is from Pamplona, so he did not have to change residence.
Claudia perez He began (and continues) studying Medicine at the Rey Juan Carlos University, in the Faculty of Health Sciences of Alcorcón. He is from Madrid and continues to live with his parents
White grandson He began studying History at the Autonomous University of Madrid in the fall of 2019. He is from Madrid.
The sevillian Alberto Saban began Business Administration and Management at the University of Seville.
Goodbye to the warm institute
Among the people interviewed there was no change of city, but not doing so does not imply that the jump to the university was less hard: new friends, a more adult education and even long trips to reach their classroom.
Nerea says that she did not change cities, but she did have to make new friends. “During my career I did not know anyone. The jump from high school to university was not particularly hard for me, for me the big change took place when I changed from an ikastola small when I was in ESO to a large institute for high school. I was used to that “universe” of a large place where they don’t pay much attention to you. “
Claudia chose a university close to home, thinking that the transfer would be easier. In her case, she acknowledges that it is easier for her to study at the university than at the baccalaureate: “In high school I did a research excellence program that you then have to present in front of a court … so I’m used to hard work With selectivity they made us very afraid and we were under a lot of stress. Now that I am studying the degree that I like, subjects that I like, it costs me less to dedicate time, so it is not as difficult as before. “
“My lifelong friends wanted to study each one differently and, as usual, if you don’t get a medical grade, you go to another university, I was clear that it would be difficult for me to meet someone from before. I went with the idea of starting from scratch. Also, as many people come from abroad, so the atmosphere was conducive to meeting like-minded people “Claudia Pérez.
Blanca had been wanting to study history for years and “expectations have been more than met, I am discovering many things that I love, more than I had imagined. I did not have to change residence, but I have made new friends because I am from Pinto, and I have also lost other high school and lifelong friends, although I still have the closest ones.
Despite not moving from town, his life turned upside down on several levels: “For me it was a very big leap (positive) meeting new people from all over Madrid and even from different CCAA. In addition, there were people from other countries at the university who were doing an Erasmus or an international mobility program. It was a very strong change, even with mobility, before it took 15 minutes to go to class and now it takes me an hour and a half to go to university. “
«It is necessary to have a determined maturity and to be centered because there is no one who is above you»
But the academic dynamics also changed: “Now I have to do everything on my own, you have to be much more independent. It is necessary to have a determined maturity and be focused because there is no one who is above you to remind you that tomorrow you have to deliver a work or an exam. “
That independence is a double-edged sword for Alberto: “What cost me the most when adjusting was that, there is so much freedom that one gets carried away and does not keep up with it as much as it should… and it shows in the exams. In this sense, in my career I did not particularly like the way of giving classes and attention to students. The most positive thing about my experience at the university is the atmosphere, very nice, you meet a lot of people and you get good experiences. “
This is how my career changed with COVID-19
We saw the terrifying situation in China on the news but we thought (innocently) that it would not come and hit us as it did, despite having Italy as a European outpost. But he did. And it changed everything. So were his first days on a completely new stage.
Claudia explains that “when the coronavirus had not reached Spain but we knew of its existence from the news and its expansion, a teacher told us not to be afraid, that this would happen like the flu. Two weeks later, we entered the state of alarm and the classes were canceled. My teacher kept insisting that he would come right away, that it would be something like a vacation. “
But it was not a vacation. Those early days were complete uncertainty. Alberto says that they were days without classes. According to Nerea, “there were some days when we didn’t hear from the university.” Claudia explains something similar: “Those initial fifteen days there was not a very fast adaptation because they thought it was going to happen quickly.” It was not so.
It is not that each university adapted its classes uniformly, but rather that it was the faculty who adopted different formulas, and some were more comfortable than others for the people interviewed.
“Although we read and reflected, we had no theoretical basis, my feeling was sometimes that I was wasting time”
Nerea considers that some of the different adaptations were not fair: “at the beginning they sent us more work, readings, comments … in a matter of weeks we already received emails from some teachers to start the telematic classes. Of five subjects we had, only two of us received online classes – the scenario had become a new normal in which to keep the virus at bay. Those months the surprise factor was what determined everything, but after them there has been a summer to plan and carry out the adaptation from education to the COVID-19 era, how do they deal with it, and what about their universities?
At the University of Blanca, classes have been divided into subgroups according to the last digit of the DNI and common protocols have been applied in these times: “In the classrooms they have left free spaces so that there is separation. In each corridor there are structures with gel hydroalcoholic and paper, so that every time we enter a classroom we clean our table and chair. Cleaning services have also been reinforced. We have to wear the mask all the time and have the windows open so that there is air circulation. “
“We are paying for a quality education, so that resources are used to the maximum”
Blanca is concerned that the adaptation will mean a loss of quality: “We do not know how the classes will evolve, it has not been decided yet. I hope that soon we will have more information about how the classes for the following semester will be taught and what the different universities are considering to improve the system The truth is that this course is a bit unpredictable, but we already have practice to give classes online if we are confined again. I hope that give us the maximum possible content in the best possible way. It is not only demanding that the education we are given is conducive, it is that we are supposed to be in universities (in my case a public one), which are not free. We are paying for a quality education, so that resources are used to the maximum. “
Alberto details that in his new career the practices are very important, so complying with the protocol is essential to move forward: “Most classes are face-to-face and we try to do everything in person, because in this career the practices have a lot of weight and they cannot be given online. The evaluation is done with a final exam, partial exams and some assignments, but practically all in person. “
“If there were another confinement it would be impossible to carry out this race, so we respect the protocol very much, in our case it is distancing, the distribution of hydroalcoholic gels for each classroom, the mask is mandatory.” Alberto Saban
Nerea highlights the effort of RESAD to adapt a career as visceral as Dramatic Art: “There is very good communication with the students, they have us super informed of the rules and they remember them almost in every class, they take our temperature when entering school … Right now we are having a semi-face-to-face training, we have one week and another online. It is difficult to adapt a career in drama and music to online training, it requires a lot of motivation and putting a lot on your part. “
Becoming a doctor without an internship is an impossible mission, but carrying it out in times of COVID-19 is proving complicated, according to Claudia: “I don’t know at other universities, but at mine the capacity of the groups was quite poorly organized, allowing the established to be exceeded. The professors tried to contact the administration of the university, but they did not respond, so we had to organize ourselves: we had to look for volunteers and have raffles to redistribute groups and be able to carry them out. “
The scenario is that the practices have been reduced, something that worries Claudia: “They seek to do as many face-to-face practices as possible, the better, but if they can be adapted online – as in the case of problem solving -, or programs with software, they they do online. In any case, face-to-face practices have been reduced compared to other years, which seems unfair to me. “