More in-person events can help new students feel connected


Contributed: Millennia Gamez

Millennia Gamez is a freshman running for senate. She is originally from Simi Valley and believes community involvement is important to the success of a university.

Malcolm Van Halen, Reporter

Over a year ago, California Lutheran University students were notified that the campus would be closing until further notice due to soaring COVID-19 cases in Southern California. This left students wondering when they would return in person or if they would actually be able to set foot on campus.

Being a transfer student can be difficult–having to adjust to a new area, a new campus and unfamiliar faces. Transferring to a campus you’ve never visited is a whole other story.

I received my acceptance letter to Cal Lutheran in spring 2020 and was set to transfer for my junior year in the fall. Although we were already well into a pandemic, I assumed things would go back to normal by the time I started school in the fall, but I was wrong.

Online classes were the least of my worries, however. I was attending a school I had never visited, had no friends and really felt no connection to anything. It’s hard to feel attachment to things that seem so intangible. Although Cal Lutheran has offered virtual events, I couldn’t push myself to attend another Zoom meeting.

With restrictions beginning to ease up in Ventura County, I believe more in-person, socially-distanced events would have a positive impact on all students, new or not.

By talking to other first-year and transfer students, I started to realize I have not been alone in how I’ve been feeling.

I did feel a little isolated not being on campus, especially since I didn’t have a lot of friends at the beginning of the fall semester,” Hannah Schindler, a transfer student who started at Cal Lutheran in fall 2020, said in an email interview.

For the spring semester, Schindler has been attending an outdoor class, which has allowed her to be amongst peers again.

The outdoor class has been a relief. It feels nice for me to see people face to face and not on a computer screen and I have met my Intro to Film Studies professor/classmates in person,” Schindler said.

Schindler also said she feels like Cal Lutheran has done a good job providing avenues to socialize, even if they can’t be in person.

“I don’t feel so disconnected because even though school has been mostly virtual, Cal Lutheran has given me plenty of opportunities to connect with friends/classmates virtually,” Schindler said. “I made a lot of new friends through a girl group called Delight.”

Junior Melissa Dennin, who is a peer advisor, said in an email interview that in terms of meeting people, she has “only experienced the events being offered through zoom due to the fact that I am not living on campus currently.” However, she did think there was an increase in the importance of her role given that so many students would be starting at Cal Lutheran online.

“My role as a peer advisor has stayed the same for this year, if anything it became extremely important, because this was the first group of students many individuals would be meeting for the first time,” Dennin said. “In our zoom meetings we focused on building a sense of community, answering any questions the students might have, and educating them about the resources Cal Lutheran has to offer.”

Dennin said she is finding time to plan a way to meet virtually with as many students as possible and making herself available if they have any questions for her.

At least for transfer students, many have already experienced life on a physical college campus. Freshman entering university for the first time, however, have experienced this in a modified, 21st century mid-pandemic way.

Millennia Gamez, first-year senator for Associated Students California Lutheran University Government (ASCLUG), said in an email interview that it is difficult to be a first-year student having never set foot on campus.

“It was pretty sad just because I felt like I was missing out on the college experience. I would love to get to know campus and explore it as a student and a member of the CLU community,” Gamez said.

She’s been able to make friends from school, but in a different way.

“I have made friends through social media, programs, and clubs… currently I am also a senator on the ASCLUG Senate,” Gamez said. “I have also been able to network with other students through the use of social media, Instagram.”

Gamez also said that although she has made friends on campus, it can be isolating not being able to see or hang out with them in person.

“There are times when I do feel isolated because I am not able to hang out with my friends from CLU or with new friends who I meet in clubs. I feel disconnected to the overall campus community,” Gamez said.

Although her first year of college was not traditional, Gamez said she believes the school is providing her with the resources she needs to make the best of it.

“I do feel disconnected from it all just because I have never experienced what it is like to be a student on campus. However, I do not feel completely disconnected because I am able to connect with other students virtually through zoom meetings,” Gamez said.

Although virtual events are a step in the right direction to encourage students to learn in a more normalized and traditional setting, it may not be right for everyone. At the very least, having more in-person opportunities would be nice for new students to interact with their campus life.