Loyola freshman grapples with entering college during a pandemic


Loyola freshman Myranda Cook walks to her first in-person class in Monroe Hall on Sept. 3. Photo credit: Peter Buffo

Rae Walberg

Six months before studio art freshman Myranda Cook came to Loyola, she was told that she would finish her final year online, missing out on the festivities that usually conclude a senior year of high school, including prom and an in-person graduation. She was devastated.

After being isolated from friends and loved ones, including her mom, for months, she said she had to relearn how to become a human but without social interaction.

“We had to find other ways to make memories over the phone and it taught me and my friends really not to take anything for granted like I have some friends that I haven’t seen since school ended in March,” she said.

When Cook arrived at Loyola, she described the experience as bizarre, citing a memory from WolfPack Welcome when students’ social distancing had to shout across a room in order to introduce themselves.

Cook said the only thing she knows about the college experience is social distancing, dinner with friends in between PlexiGlass and HyFlex classes.

On Cook’s first day of school, she was ordered to shelter-in-place in her dorm. The night before, she had received the news that two storms were barrelling toward New Orleans in a historic stretch of only three days apart.

“I’ve never been in a hurricane before so I was definitely asking sophomores and upperclassmen ‘Should I freak out?,” she said. “And they were like ‘no, no, no you’re fine’ and they turned out to be right.

While fear of the storms subsided as one dissipated in the Gulf of Mexico and the other shifted West, making a catastrophic landfall in Lake Charles, Louisiana, starting school during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was still an uncertainty.

That Wednesday, Cook went to her first in-person college class, studio art. She described her jitters as “first day of school kind of stuff.” Not anticipating how long it would take to travel across campus, she ran. But when she was arrived she said she was struck by the feeling of normalcy.

“I could tell that everybody in the room wanted to be there and wanted to be an artist just like me, so I kind of felt okay,” Cook said, “it was almost like we didn’t have masks on.”

For Cook, COVID-19 safety measures have felt “a little too normal” and she often forgets that she is living in the middle of a pandemic.

“I’m just as frustrated with the situation as other people are, but I’m also making the best and still trying to have fun and I think a lot of people can do the same thing,” Cook said.

Socializing during a pandemic has meant building friendships almost exclusively through Zoom or group chats and being excited to meet in person for the first time, she said.

“I think it’s cool that friendships are evolving that way like you could feel close to people without ever having met them,” Cook said.

It has also meant becoming close to her roommate and suitemates in a short amount of time, bonding over movie nights, YouTube videos and coffee, she said.

“The fact that we are all here at one time and we can eat lunch together we can just hang out together, even though it’s for a bad reason because there’s a pandemic, it’s nice to be that close to people,” Cook said.

Even though the reality of Cook’s freshman year contrasts starkly from her expectation, she believes her experiences starting college now are more meaningful than it would have been any other time.

“I obviously thought I was going to get the full freshman orientation experience like organization fairs and parties,” Cook said. “But, in some ways, it’s been better than what I thought I expected, I didn’t know I’d be this close to the people I was living with and I didn’t know I’d be able to make friends over emails.”