Fresh Thoughts Episode 1: Welcome to Zoom University, Gators!

The class of 2024 is unlike any other group of first-year students SF State has seen. After enduring their final moments of highschool in Zoom meetings, these students are now entering a new chapter of their lives virtually. They will not experience the typical first-year experience at SF State – living in the haunted Mary Halls, having City Eats scrambled eggs for breakfast every morning, making lots of calls to home in tears … OK maybe there’s some projecting going on here.

Host Olivia Wynkoop (@oliviawynkoop) chats with three first-year students during their very first week of college to see how they’re adjusting to a new “normal.”

The students often refer to the possibility of in-person classes happening in the spring semester throughout the episode. As a note, these conversations were held before California State University announced it will remain virtual for the remainder of this academic year.

TRANSCRIPT:

Olivia Wynkoop: I’m Olivia Wynkoop from Golden Gate Xpress, and you’re listening to Fresh Thoughts – a place San Francisco State freshmen to share their first experiences on campus, or in this case, behind the computer screen.

For me, freshman year was a turning point. Through navigating around an unfamiliar city surrounded by strangers and new experiences, I took the world head on. I had no other choice but to push through and begin to develop a greater understanding of myself, and I think many students experience something similar.

But the class of 2024 is not just overcoming personal barriers in this new chapter. The world is adjusting right alongside them as COVID-19 continues to change the way we communicate and learn from one another.

Though these students are considered freshmen, I’m curious to know if they feel any difference from their final Zoom class of high school and if they’re getting the experience they’ve always imagined. We’ll be following these freshmen around throughout their first semester to see how they’re adjusting to the new normal.

PART ONE: BHUPINDER SINGH

Singh: Hi. I’m Bhupinder, and I am from Alameda, California, and I am a biology major focusing on physiology.

Wynkoop: Bhupinder Singh, 17-year-old STEM major, told me that she’s not really looking forward to her birthday this month. She’s hoping this semester will go by quickly in hopes of real life classes next semester. Since our conversation though, the school has announced that it’s staying virtual.

Singh: I just want it to be over honestly, four more months or, yeah, four more months.

Wynkoop: She’s really looking forward to finding a supportive network of women on campus. Right now she’s taking a Woman and Gender Studies course and is looking into joining Greek life.

Singh: I’m just trying to get to know everything around me … so I have like more people that I know that I can go to.

Wynkoop: She’s been connecting to people through the Class of ’24 Instagram page. I reminisced on the summer before my freshman year when I was a part of a ginormous group chat, too. That feeling of anticipation before meeting everyone in person is true to the freshman experience. Singh is going through something similar, but maybe just a semester delayed.

Singh: We’ve like made plans once like this whole thing is over, and hopefully it’s soon because I’m actually like, looking forward to getting to know everybody.

When I get to know people online, I’m like, really awkward in person. I don’t know how to act around them. So I’m just hoping that it’s not going to be awkward because we’ve been talking for so long, but I know it’s gonna be awkward at the same time.

Wynkoop: It’s true. The way we talk and present ourselves online can be entirely different than how we are in person. Finding genuine connections can be challenging.

Singh: If you guys are interested in like, being friends with me, just hit me up on Instagram. I’m on the SF State ’24 page… um yea.

Wynkoop: I love it, I love it! Self promo! That’s great. That’s awesome.

PART 2: JISSELLE YANEZ

Wynkoop: Meet Jisselle Yanez. She’s a sociology student originally from Vacaville, which is right near my small hometown in Central California. I kind of get excited when someone knows where Dixon is. Like myself, she wanted to move to San Francisco to explore a new environment.

Yanez: I just love that the Bay Area has so many options for public transportation. Where like, I live in Vacaville, and mainly people here just drive or, you know, walk or things like that. So I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to get around, and public transportation and things like that.

Wynkoop: We both agreed that though Solano County is in close proximity to San Francisco, the way of life is very different.

Yanez: You know, I’ve lived here since I was six. After living here for 12 years. It’s kind of like I need new air, just a new vibe.

Wynkoop: She’s hopeful this will eventually pass. Though she may not be on campus for her first semester, she would rather stay enrolled in SF State than spend two years at a community college.

Yanez: I decided to stick with it and in hopes that you know, next semester we will be able to be on campus because you know, it’s not going to last forever. It’s something that everyone’s going through. And, you know, we just have to be flexible and adjust to what’s happening now.

Wynkoop: She’s already got a head start on extracurriculars. She secured an internship with Project Connect, she applied to be a Health Promotion and Wellness ambassador to get involved in community service, and she’s a part of the Metro College Success Program.

Yanez: I tried to get myself as involved as possible just to start meeting new people and kind of build that community because I like, don’t know anyone that’s going to SF State.

Wynkoop: Yanez says that though this semester is not what she originally expected, it still qualifies as the college experience because every student in the class of ‘ 24 is going through the same thing.

Yanez: I’m not the only, you know, college student who’s stuck at home doing classes virtually, it’s, you know, hundreds and hundreds of students going through the exact same thing. And that to me is comforting. Because we can relate, it’s like, oh, yeah, you know, I’m not the only one who couldn’t get into zoom the other day. I’m not the only one who was having issues you know, submitting an assignment because it wasn’t uploading. So it’s something that it’s, even though it’s different, I feel like yeah, I’m still receiving the college experience with different ups and downs, but you know, I’m still experiencing it.

PART THREE: PATRICIA DUFFEY

Wynkoop: Up next is Patricia Duffy theatre major from Temecula. In a major that seemingly requires face to face interaction, Duffy says her two major classes are a little different than what she originally expected.

Duffey: I am taking two theatre classes, which is a little weird, doing theater over Zoom. It’s still fun. I like meeting other classmates who are all passionate about theatre too. It’s just kind of funny just reading our script to each other on the screen sitting down. So it’s kind of awkward. But everyone’s in the same boat. So we all get it. We all like, move our screens and like, stand up on the backs of our room and do like, warm ups together. We like, dance around. It’s really funny.

Wynkoop: She mentioned that the theatre department is still doing virtual performances, and she’s even required to attend a few for classes. She’s not sure whether she would jump into something like that yet, as she’s still getting used to online learning.

Duffey: They do like, open mic nights I’ve heard so I might try out some of that stuff. I might try some small stuff, but I don’t know about joining a club or anything.

Wynkoop: With theater, facial expressions alone can tell a story. Duffy says script reading gets challenging when not everyone puts on their camera.

Duffey: It’s really weird when people don’t have their cameras on and you’re doing like, a scene with them in theatre. They don’t want to turn the camera on. Some people, their cameras don’t even work, so I get it, but it’s funny.

Wynkoop: I had these three conversations on the very first week of school, and as you heard, many of these students talked about how the future possibility of in person school next spring was keeping them hopeful.

Things are different now. This past week, all CSU campuses announced that they’re staying virtual for the rest of the academic year. I still wanted to showcase these student voices to show how this early decision may influence our enrollment rates and our students overall well-being.

So that concludes episode one. I look forward to continuing to have these conversations with these freshmen throughout their first semester, in hopes of getting fresh insight … *fresh thoughts*… it’s the name of the podcast … all right. I will see y’all next time.