Second year brings firsts for class of 2024


Photo by Jose Fontano on Unsplash

Adrienne Korey, Contributing Writer

Macalester’s campus looks very different from last year. Classrooms that sat empty are now full of students. In dorm rooms that housed only one person, roommates share space. Fall Break signifies the middle of the semester instead of the end of a module. Walking to in-person events on campus replaces opening a computer for a Zoom call. 

Although the pandemic is ongoing, in many ways Macalester has returned to how it operated before the onset of COVID-19. For the sophomores at Macalester, the class of 2024, all of these aspects of normalcy are novel and abnormal.

For sophomore RAs, guiding residents went hand in hand with learning more about Macalester and campus life. Ellie Berkenblit ’24, an RA in Wallace Hall, found RA training this year to be specifically helpful for sophomores. 

“At one point in our training, we had a campus tour, where we go all around campus, basically like a scavenger hunt to find the different offices and resources on campus,” Berkenblit said. “[The tour was] designed specifically for sophomores who hadn’t gotten a fully open campus experience, maybe not aware of all the resources, or haven’t been in all the buildings.”

For Berkenblit, the training and support for RAs have helped her feel confident in her position. In some situations however, she does still have to learn for herself along with her residents. 

“Discovering [things] for myself as I’m orienting my residents is a little bit strange, but it’s definitely been doable,” Berkenblit said. 

For Fiona Mulholland ’24, guiding residents after her unconventional first year was worrying. 

“All of the activities that we did last year as residents were all virtual and very different. And they told us that it’s not normally like this,” Mulholland said. “Okay, then what was it like? – I didn’t know.” 

Similarly to Berkenblit, Mulholland said the RA training before the beginning of the semester, specifically the campus tour, helped to alleviate a lot of her worries. On the campus tour, Mullohland visited places on campus she had not been to before, including the first floor of Kagin Commons and Markim Hall. These buildings house resources such as the Department of Multicultural Life, the MAX Center and the Center for Study Away.

“If a student asked me [in the first week] where the classrooms were, I wouldn’t have been able to tell them, “Oh, yeah, that’s to the left,” Mullohand said. 

This year, the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement created the Sophomore in the Cities program. This initiative places sophomores in small groups that volunteer with a local nonprofit once per week. 

For Seamus McCarthy ’24, joining the program was a way to explore the Twin Cities and get involved with the area around him. 

“I went into the Cities twice my freshman year, and I didn’t like that,” McCarthy said. “[Sophomores in the Cities] eliminates a lot of the work of finding opportunities yourself.” 

He recommends that Macalester continue this program for future sophomores, even if they haven’t had the same unique freshman year. 

For McCarthy, though Sophomores in the Cities was a great opportunity, there is a lack of programming for sophomores who were all remote as freshmen. Zara Ammar ’24 came to campus for the first time over the summer for module 5, after taking her freshman year courses from home. Ammar says that Macalester did not offer her any kind of campus tour or programming as a sophomore who was new to campus. 

 “I think programs specifically designed for people who are sophomores but this is like their first time on campus would have been nice,” Ammar said. 

She explained that she would have liked to connect with other people who had a similar experience to her, having been at home the entire year. Ammar said she has enjoyed meeting people in classes, but it is not always easy. 

“I’ll just see somebody from a Zoom class, and it’s like seeing a cartoon character in real life,” Ammar said.

She is living in a single room and thought that finding a roommate would have been difficult for her at the time of room selection in April. Although she had met people in her classes, she found it difficult to connect with them remotely.

While students in the class of 2024 are in their second year at Macalester, they are dealing with  a lot of firsts. Whether a student is learning to navigate  campus, attending their first in-person college classes or finally exploring more of the Twin Cities the sophomores’ are facing an untraditional second year. 

“Being able to move in, and to have in-person classes, I felt sort of like a pseudo-freshman,” Berkenblit said.