Bittersweet beginnings for first-year Delhi University students – The New Indian Express

Just as a new year unfolds, virtually, at Delhi University, a fresh batch – that bid goodbye to their school days digitally – is all set to catch up with their collegiate goals.
Published: 22nd November 2021 07:46 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd November 2021 07:02 PM   |  A+A-
Delhi University
Long queues outside colleges, throngs of students assembled near Kamla Nagar or Sarojini Nagar, endless documents being photocopied at Patel Chest, images tagged ‘college life’ uploaded on social media—these are nothing but wistful sights now. Just as a new year unfolds, virtually, at Delhi University (DU), a fresh batch—that bid goodbye to their school days digitally—is all set to catch up with their collegiate goals. The DU dream, however, seems lacklustre. As classes for first year students commence today, we speak to a few freshers about their expectations from this new chapter of their lives. 

Low expectations, uncertainty persists
The transition from school to college is usually filled with excitement. The change from uniforms to casual wear on campus as well as a new stint of freedom, college is ideally supposed to be an experience of a lifetime.  However, for a cohort that is making the shift within the digital realm of education, the process has turned out to be weary. “Being in one of the best colleges in India, it is really disappointing to not be there in person, but I will definitely give my best.  I am an introvert, so making friends virtually and building connections online would be a task,” says Palak Aggarwal, who will be pursuing B.Com Honours from Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC), North Campus. “On-field experience is really required in societies. It is something I will really miss. The screen time will also increase with all the work being done virtually, I think that will create a problem in the long run” she adds. 
In the same stride, Himanshu Joshi, who will be joining Ramanujan College, Kalkaji, to study political science says, “We’ve missed out on our farewell, we are going to miss out on our fresher’s too.” 
While expectations are low this year, the jitters one experiences before beginning college, still persist. “Everyone has been complaining about college being virtual but I still have high hopes. Since everything is so new, there is a giddy feeling attached to it. I hope everything goes well and it does not turn out to be very difficult,” says Mallika Andania, who will be joining Jesus and Mary College, Chanakyapuri. 
Seniors as saviours  
The current second year DU batch have not yet attended physical classes, and therefore, they still experience uncertainty. “We have never met our classmates in person, and now we will also have juniors… it is a weird feeling,” says Purvi Sharma, second year student at Indraprastha College for Women, Civil Lines. Amid dampened expectations, college seniors look forward to meeting their juniors, and come up with interesting ways to keep the new batch engaged. “We have something called the ‘Buddy System’ wherein two or three seniors make a WhatsApp group with a few juniors. This is to carve a safe space for them and also help them with assignments, societies, or any other issues. This system really helped us when we came to college, I am sure it will also help our juniors,” says Udisha, a second year student of English Hons. at Miranda House, North Campus. 
Despite lingering ambiguity and a collective sense of dejection, college societies are geared up to make the most of the time they have, to connect with the incoming batch. Harshit Talwar, president of SPADE, the Socio-economic Society of Shivaji College adds, “Every society is planning an elaborate orientation to familiarise the freshers with college. We have also planned games with rewards to ensure the incoming batch learns while they also enjoy virtual mode.” 
“We plan to make this [our society] a space where students can come and explore things that they could not do in their ‘virtual school life’. We will hold more interactive sessions to build a well-bonded team, which is imperative for theatre,” says Trishna Choudhury, a final year student and a core team member of Abhivyakti, The Dramatics Society of Indraprastha College for Women, Civil Lines. 
Even though teachers, societies, and students are putting in their best efforts to make this virtual mode successful for new students, a unanimous desire to meet in-person, take lectures in vast classrooms, and eat in college canteens, binds them all together in hope. 
FRESHERS REACT
I am not really expecting a lot from college. I completed online school and it was an ‘okay’ experience. I believe virtual college would be no different. The plan was to explore new places, try out new things, I don’t see that happening. I don’t think there will be any worthwhile exposure through the online mode.
-Muskan Malhotra,  First year, Political Science Hons., Kamala Nehru College
Campus life, making new friends, college vibes, bonding with seniors, parties, going to libraries, meeting professors—everything will be missed.
– Mallika Andania,  First year, BA Programme, Jesus and Mary College
With the online mode, I am very uncertain because a lot of what I had planned will not happen anytime soon. I had planned to join the debating society, I don’t know how that will unravel this year. There is an emotional connection that you build with your teachers and new friends. I wonder how that will play out in the virtual mode. 
-Himanshu Joshi, First year, Political Science Hons., Ramanujan College
Had our school been offline, we would have had more expectations from college. But now we are just used to the idea of attending classes virtually. 
-Yashika Yadav, First year, Political Science Hons., Lakshmibai College
EXPERT OPINION
“It is indeed very difficult to build up a healthy rapport with students on the digital platform. Despite open information and easy accessibility,  the digital space fails to offer the comfort and bonding that is possible in a physical space. There is always an option of being present and not listening for students and for teachers the severe dearth of one to one interactions in such classrooms. We encourage using the varied options available on the digital platforms to make the classes student friendly. Movie screening,  screen presentations, holding interactive sessions with discussions and question answers are regularly conducted.”
Maitreyee Mandal, Assistant Professor, Lady Shri Ram College for Women
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