After challenging fall, frosh staying at home tackle winter quarter with more friends and confidence

Feb. 28, 2021, 10:15 p.m.

“What do ‘FoHo,’ ‘ProFro’ and ‘MemChu’ even mean?” asked Amara Okoli ’24 from her home in Houston, Texas. “All quarter, people told the class of ’24 what we missed out on by using acronyms and buzzwords that we haven’t even learned yet.” 

Acronyms aren’t the only thing frosh learning online have missed out on. Many frosh still feel as though they have been robbed of the traditional college experience: “While I’m grateful for the experience I had during fall, I didn’t feel like a Stanford student,” Okoli said.

However, these stay-at-home frosh are still satisfied with their decision to attend Stanford and have learned that the college experience reaches far beyond the campus. 

The fall quarter brought an untraditional start to college for members of the class of 2024 , as frosh began their college journey Zooming in from across the world. Most frosh logged onto classes from home after on-campus housing for both fall and winter quarters was canceled for those without compelling academic or personal reasons to be on campus. 

Students had different takeaways on how online classes affected their ability to study.

Some thought working from home made it harder to concentrate: “It would have been a lot easier to have had other students around when completing assignments,” Grace Carter ’24 said. “It often felt awkward to reach out virtually.” 

And connectivity problems or difficult home situations could also make it challenging to focus on classes. Ishaan Singh ’24 said he struggled with internet for the entire quarter at his home in Chuluota, Fla. and drove to a friend’s house to take quizzes and tests.

But others said that the isolation was conducive to learning and allowed them to stay focused on their studies. Okoli said that while she doesn’t know what her fall quarter grades would have been during normal times, she “benefitted from having extra time to triple check my work.”

The virtual format also allowed classes to lean more heavily on guest speakers, bringing new flavor to lecture-based classes. For instance, EDUC 157: Election 2020 welcomed guest speakers like President Bill Clinton and Governor Gavin Newsom. 

The virtual format “allowed even more high-profile guest lecturers to speak in my classes than a normal year,” according to Carter. “Stanford has exceeded my expectations in that way.” 

Despite the challenges they faced during the fall, the three freshmen interviewed did not alter their living plans for the winter quarter. Carter had a “mostly positive experience” at home in Joplin, Mo., which made it “much easier” to stay there after her on-campus winter quarter housing was cancelled. And Singh decided to cancel his winter quarter housing in early January before the University announcement because he was worried about COVID and traveling across the country. 

And despite the distance, frosh said their classmates and Stanford staff were quick to help them with any issues they had.

Okoli admired the adaptive nature of the Stanford community and its willingness to help frosh. She has met undergraduate and graduate students that are committed to welcoming frosh and offering advice. 

“I’ve never encountered so many people willing to take time out of their schedules to help underclassmen,” she said. Okoli added that the Black community — from engineering groups to the Black House — has “done a wonderful job of helping us feel a sense of belonging during a remote year.”

Carter and Singh also said they made friends in their classes, helping them become better students and expand their social networks. Singh also said he was grateful to make friends with some upperclassmen in his classes, as they “are always willing to offer guidance and give advice on classes and studying.”

Of course, the experience was not what any students were hoping for when fantasizing about their freshman fall. 

“A lot of us felt, and still feel, like our freshman year was stolen from us,” Okoli said. “Instead of waiting for freshman year to suddenly feel like normal times, I decided to invest in all of the remote social experiences I could.”

Stanford plans to welcome frosh and sophomores for on-campus housing in the summer. Carter, Okoli and Singh have not yet definitively decided on their summer and flex term plans, as final decisions have not yet been made by the University to confirm housing.

Regardless of their living and learning circumstances, members of the class of 2024 said they do not regret their decision to attend Stanford. Singh chose to attend the University for its academics and research opportunities and said that his “expectations have definitely been met.” 

“I wouldn’t give up coming to Stanford for anything,” he said.

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