The first time you send a child off to college is typically an emotional experience, but I think we can all agree that, this year, it is more challenging and entails more question marks than usual. There are all the normal concerns. Will my son find good friends? Will my daughter connect with her teachers? Will my child make good choices, take good care of his brand new adult life?
This year, as parents, we’re also worrying about things like contagion.
What a heavy word that is.
We interviewed one of our own staff who took a child to college for the first time this year, asking what that experience was like for him as a parent. He said that, though he had no other personal context against which to compare his experience, this year seemed “especially hard. There are not only the typical concerns and mixed emotions of this moment, but the health concerns with staying on campus and in a residence hall during this pandemic add to the stress level quite a bit.” These are the words of a higher education professional who is well aware of all the measures being taken to keep students as safe and healthy as possible on campus, but knowing about those measures doesn't necessarily alleviate the worry...and I understand entirely!
This year, families didn’t just load the back of the car with mini fridges and extra-long, twin-sized bedding, pillows and tennis rackets, favorite stuffed animals and post-it notes. They packed hand sanitizer. When students arrived on campus, their first Bengal-branded gear distributed at every doorway was a mask.
No...this year is definitely not normal. And that’s a cause for some grief, as our staff interviewee noted: “I think it is also hard to see your kids go through a challenging conclusion to their senior year of high school and then have this situation move into their first year of college and create an atypical and difficult experience.”
We’ve been feeling that sadness as university staff and faculty as well. We love sitting face to face with your students, hearing all about their experiences and ambitions. We love shaking their hands and walking with them to events, sitting beside them and screaming at volleyball and football games. We are here because we love our students and our jobs and want them to love being Bengals! And we know that our sister institutions in the state and region share our passion for student success and concern for student wellbeing.
We asked our interviewee how things are going for his son so far. He said that, though they are only a week into this experience, “so far it has been good. He seems to be enjoying himself. He has a roommate that was a very good friend from high school, which really helps. He communicates with us pretty regularly with updates and he seems to be enjoying his time thus far.”
I have to say that I have been inspired by the way students and families across our nation have adapted to the oddities of this fall. Here at ISU, I love the way our students have embraced the oddities of this fall. I see Bengal face coverings everywhere. I see students carefully maintaining physical distancing in public areas and being good natured about the fact that--to enable that distancing--they are attending classes in dining halls, conference rooms, and even the Pond Student Union ballroom. We’re all becoming Zoom experts, hand-washing experts, face covering fashion experts! It’s a weird fall, but I believe in us. I believe in our students. And I believe in the importance of your support in helping your student stay healthy and happy in college.