Friendships help students survive an unusual first year of college

By Justine Collister / NM News Port

Moving away from home and family is one of the most challenging parts of college but the pandemic has put extra pressure on new students. It helps to have close friends, whether they’re people you’ve just met or old friends at the same school.

Jane March, a first-year student at New Mexico Tech, has never known a home outside of Albuquerque until she moved to Socorro in August. She and her family are very close and she’s used to getting together with them on the weekends for lunch or outings.

Jane March lacks the support system other students have. Justine Collister / NM News Port

At the beginning of the pandemic, everything changed. “It was different not being able to see them all the time,” March said.

She had a hard time leaving her family behind and worried a lot about her grandparents, which made it hard to concentrate on her studies.

“I try to call them every chance I get and when I don’t get an answer, I get anxious,” March said.

She’s not that close with her roommate, so she feels like she lacks the support system older students might have.

When Eddie Ramirez left for school at New Mexico State University, he made sure to build a support system. He brought a 40-foot travel trailer as a living space to share with his best friend from high school.

He arrived at school excited to start a new adventure. “I was ready to leave my hometown,” Ramirez said. “I do get homesick from time to time but I don’t regret moving down here at all.”

He’s not too worried about getting sick. He doesn’t go out very often. Plus, he’s vaccinated and so is most of his family.

But he does worry that an outbreak could shut down in-person classes and push him back online Ramirez said. He learns more in the classroom than behind a computer screen. 

Friends have helped Savannah Gonzales get through her first semester at UNM. She said she’s been lucky to find peers going through the same things. 

And college has also given her the chance to explore outside of her hometown. “It’s been nice to be around people and not stuck at home all the time,” Gonzales said.

She said friends, other students and staff have all done a great job protecting each other through the pandemic. 

Justine Collister is a reporter for New Mexico News Port. You can find Justine on Twitter @justinecollist