Syracuse University culture evolves during pandemic

SU culture evolves post-pandemic

Graduating seniors reflect on their college experiences during the COVID-19 saga.
Published: May 12, 2022


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Anna Morello and her friend, Alyssa Horowitz, attending a Syracuse men's basketball game in the Carrier Dome their freshman year.

A wild ride, to say the least, the class of 2022 has had an unprecedented and unique college experience, one that is theirs alone. Walking onto the Syracuse campus in 2018 with the idea of a pandemic only being something out of an apocalypse movie, they had no idea what was in store for them. Almost four years later, graduating from college with memories of COVID-19 in the rearview mirror, seniors across campus are taking time to reflect on how the pandemic shaped their college experience.

The senior class looks back fondly on the first year and a half of their college experience. It was something out of a movie scene: the quad filled with chattering students, classes in beautiful buildings, a packed student section at football games and Marshall Street overflowing with kids going out on a Friday night.

Harrison Mayesh, a graduating senior, remembers the social atmosphere during his freshman and sophomore years well. He thinks back to making friends when he first got to campus, the way he and his roommates could meet new people just by walking down the hallway of his dorm or dining hall. His home base being Manhattan Beach, California, coming to Syracuse at 18 was a big adjustment and even a bit overwhelming at times.

Mayesh described his experience then as having a lot of interactions with different groups of people, which helped him feel more comfortable in a new place across the country from everyone he knew and loved at home.

This part of the Syracuse culture is what made him fall in love with the school immediately. Everyone being together, everyone wanting to be friends with one another, it felt like the true Orange Community the class of 2022 imagined coming into college.

Once the pandemic hit, Mayesh said, so much of this camaraderie on campus was lost, not by the choice of the students.

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Due to online classes and guidelines from the Stay Safe Pledge, the student body quickly became limited in how much they were able to interact with one another. People all around the world felt a sense of loneliness going into lockdown in March of 2020, and this same feeling was carried onto campus in August of 2020, the beginning of his junior year. The tradition of doing homework on the quad and Marshall Street overflowing on the weekends was no longer possible, creating a sense of isolation for many students on campus.

While it was hard for students to adjust and COVID regulations became frustrating at times, the pandemic ushered in a new era for some Syracuse students. Anna Morello, a graduating senior, described it more as a pause from the chaos of college life and gave her time for herself. This pause allowed her to develop a clearer identity and build a stronger sense of confidence that she has carried with her since the pandemic was at its worst. She was able to develop new passions and interests that she had never known before.

“I think that the pandemic was beneficial to me as an individual in a lot of ways,” Morello said. “It really forced me to pause from everything in my life and get more comfortable with who I was. I took the time to find myself spiritually and develop a really strong relationship with myself.I enlightened myself politically and it gave me the time to think about what aspects of my life I really cared about and to work on them more than I ever had before.”

Other graduating seniors like Maria Fernandez used the so-called pause as a way to invest in her future and career. With the flexibility of online classes, she was able hold a work-study job at Ernie Davis, the campus gym while dedicating herself to freelancing graphic design work her junior year. Thinking back on it, she believes that if the pandemic hadn’t happened she would not have had the opportunity to pursue either of these paths.

This phenomenon was felt by students around the world, according to a study done by BMC Public Health in 2021. Getting responses from more than 40 countries with 70% of student respondents feeling negative consequences from the pandemic, but more than 60% of those students value the additional time they gained from the time off.

While certain aspects of the social atmosphere were lost, new ones quickly emerged.

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Mayesh described his junior year at Syracuse in COVID times as a phase in which he developed intimate relationships with the people closest to him. Although he was no longer able to talk to as many people as he used to, having to spend so much time in his home with his roommates allowed him to forge closer relationships in college than he had imagined possible.

“I think that a really valuable part of the pandemic for me was being able to find my best friends as opposed to having a lot of acquaintances or people I’d just see around. It changed my experience in a way I was not expecting,” Mayesh said.

Now, at the end of the hectic and messy four-year journey, students at Syracuse are starting to feel a sense of normalcy that hasn’t existed for the last two years. This past semester students have returned to the quad with smiling faces and Block Party 2022 rivaled all others, but the senior class still recognizes so many campus traditions lost during the COVID years. She described a sense of responsibility in showing the younger class “the ropes” in the way things are done, with the class of 2022 being the only ones to experience these things prior to the pandemic. However, there are so many students now that never got to experience Syracuse before and it is in their hands to form new traditions and cultures around campus.

Although there were many months spent feeling like their time in college was being taken from them, in hindsight, these seniors recognize the strength of going through something like this together. While Syracuse might be a bit different from the school they came into, these students grew in ways that they hadn’t expected to in the face of adversity.

Avatar for Gianna Valente

is a contributor for The NewsHouse.