Opinion

Essay: To the First-Years, Wherever You Are

Zack Miller | The PhoenixJust because first-years are stuck at home doesn't mean they can’t make a difference.

The Loyola Phoenix is committed to publishing opinion pieces that represent many diverse perspectives and viewpoints. If you have an interest in submitting a piece or writing for us, email phoenixopinion@luc.edu.

Let’s face it — this isn’t where you expected you would be. Finishing high school online and starting college the same way isn’t how most people imagined it.

Typical first-year advice, such as which dining halls are the best — de Nobili Dining Hall by the way — or the best place to study, Cudahy Library basement in the little cubicles, doesn’t really mean anything for an entirely online experience.

It’s incredibly tempting to just let go, get lost in the endless cycle of Zoom classes and spend all your free time playing video games — as I did back in March. Missing out on the classic first-year experience is something to be mourned, but the class of 2024 has a great opportunity to carve out a new path. 

One of the first things a Loyola student is told is to explore Chicago. It’s a city that always leaves people in awe at the culture, architecture, cuisine and stunning lakefront views. And while some students are privileged enough to live here, many are stuck in their hometowns. 

But I think a lot of students can use this as an opportunity to explore their own hometowns. Familiarity often obscures, and places you think you know often have more stories to tell than you thought. 

But exploration isn’t just finding the best coffee shops or nicest parks, because along the way you get to see the city for what it really is — every crack and every flaw. Exploring the city reveals the issues that affect everyone in hidden ways, and can be the impetus for change.

Loyola students are a force for change here in Chicago, but now they can effect change all across the U.S. But getting involved in the community and helping to make it better doesn’t just stop at home.

Even though campus is mostly deserted, there are still problems to fix and students to fix them. 

Just because you’re disconnected from the school doesn’t mean you can’t hold the university accountable. It’s the job of every student of every grade to hold those in power accountable — being a student and an activist are not mutually exclusive. 

While it may be harder to keep an eye on how things are run, pay attention to what’s happening at Loyola and in your hometown. Student organizations — hosting a virtual fair Aug. 26 at 3 p.m. — are still a way for first-years to get involved and educated on issues affecting Chicago, campus and the world-at-large. 

I remember my first assignment as a news reporter for The Phoenix had me covering a group of Loyola students at a climate change rally in downtown Chicago. And even as I write this, Loyola students are actively protesting for Loyola to sever ties with the Chicago Police Department.

But even if you’re stuck at home, you can still support movements like these and many others. Petitions, emails and financial support are all ways to effect change while protecting yourself from COVID-19.

Loyola students aren’t known for sitting back and letting things happen. 

Loyola students are loud. They are hard-working. They get things done. Taking classes online doesn’t change that. 

This year is make or break. A post-COVID-19 world will look unrecognizable from what it was before — and we will have the class of 2024 to thank for it. 

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