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Local universities adapt student life through COVID-19 challenges

School looks different this year for everyone, including those studying at universities across central Ohio.

School looks different this year for everyone, including those studying at universities across central Ohio.

Students heading into their first year of college may be faced with more obstacles than the usual first-year student but all is not lost.

That’s evident after speaking with incoming Ohio Dominican first-year student, Ashlyn Willis.

“I think I’m most excited about just getting my education, as naïve or you know, as weird as that may sound,” the Groveport Madison Validictorian said.

If anything, Willis’ mindset is refreshing.

The soon-to-be first-generation college student has a busy road ahead.

Willis plans to major in biology and chemistry, with a minor in psychology on the pre-med track in the honors program, Willis told 10TV. That’s while juggling band and other organizations she’d like to join.

It is safe to say Willis isn’t letting the pandemic dampen her dreams.

“At first I was really upset about it and I think as time went on I realized that there’s only so much we can do as individuals and so it’s in our hands but it’s also out of our hands at the same time,” she said.

While things won’t be the same as a typical year, the university is adjusting to give students as much of that classic college experience as possible.

“Recently, band camp was canceled so of course, that was disappointing but in turn, [Ohio Dominican] is doing private lessons and they’re also making it so we’re able to kind of meet up together as a band and chat and have little snacks or stuff like that so they’re definitely putting an effort in and making it so if something isn’t able to be done, we’re able to do something in place of that,” Willis said.

10TV talked with Sharon Reed, the vice president for student development and dean of student life at Ohio Dominican University.

Before COVID-19, Reed explained, the start of school would begin with one big welcome weekend for new students and their families, including a big class dinner.

This year, there may not be any large group move-ins and there may be a limited number of family members who can help with the move-in process, but the university is doing other things to help those incoming students feel welcome, Reed said.

“We’re hoping they can get a little bit of that college experience by knowing that COVID-19 hasn’t changed the ‘what’ or the ‘why’ we want to welcome them here, because we really believe every one of them belongs here at this time for some special reason,”

To kick off the new year, Ohio Dominican is holding a drive-in welcome for new students, personal notes on the doors as they move in, outdoor activities such as yoga and fitness classes, as well as small group activities with faculty, such as creek explorations or art projects.

“We’re convinced that COVID has changed the process we use but hopefully not the outcome,” Reed said.

Other universities have made similar changes, including the Ohio State University.

“This is going to be a very different school year than we’ve had in years past. There’s absolutely no doubt about that,” said Dave Isaacs, student life spokesperson at the Ohio State University (OSU).

Welcome Week at OSU would typically include a 1,400 student organization fair on the Oval to help incoming students find their niche community on campus.

“One of the things we recognize is that peer interaction is an integral part of what really makes up the Ohio State experience and so we’re working really hard, really starting last spring and continuing through the summer and now into the semester, to accommodate ways that students can still connect with each other,” Isaacs said.

This year, the student involvement fair will be held virtually but Issacs believes this generation of students can adapt.

“A lot of what will be done this year will be virtual but this is a generation that gets that,” he said. “A lot of their life is virtual so I think they will very well adapt to some of these new, what we think is all new and different, I don’t think it’s going to be all that different for them.”