F&M Stories

Alone Together: Junior Made Lifetime Memories

The pandemic that began in 2020 changed the world, college campuses and how students respond and adapt to the challenges that lockdowns, Zoom classes and hybrid classes presented. In this ongoing series, Franklin & Marshall students discuss their experiences over the last 19 months.

Name: Mollie Katzen

Class Year: 2023

Major: Psychology on pre-health track

What town do you call home?: Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

Activities at F&M: Executive board of Alpha Delta Pi sorority, secretary of F&M Hillel, and Diplomat Corps tour guide

Tell us about your last year at F&M: I had a unique last year at F&M. When sophomores were told we weren't returning to campus fall semester, I remember crying to my mom, so upset that I would not be going back to Lancaster to see my friends after an incredible freshman year and a summer spent in modified quarantine. Instead of letting this take control of my fall semester, my friends and I decided to make the most out of what seemed like a terrible situation at the time. Six of us rented a house in Ventnor City, N.J., for the semester to try to create a sense of normalcy and a feeling of an F&M community for ourselves in a time that was so uncertain. We all took our remote classes under the same roof, cooked dinners together, celebrated birthdays, went for long walks on the beach, and so much more. Although I missed being on campus, we made memories to last a lifetime and it is now a period in my life that I will forever cherish. Spring semester, I finally made my way back to school, which was a challenging adjustment, but I was very grateful to be back. I was able to reconnect with many of my peers. I hadn't seen for almost a year, so reconnecting was so special.

What did you find challenging?: Upon returning to campus for the second semester of my sophomore year, I found being social to be very challenging. Following all the school-sanctioned COVID guidelines while still trying to reconnect with all my peers who I hadn't seen in about a year was frustrating at times. I found myself reminiscing about my freshman year constantly. I missed having a roommate, being able to sit in the common room with everyone in my hall, having dinner with my entire sorority class in the dining hall, or having in-person Hillel events at the Klehr Center for Jewish Life. I tried to remain grateful for being able to physically be at school again, but a part of me was always missing the experiences we were able to have my first year.

What did you find rewarding? I found the ways that I and my classmates were able to adapt to an entirely remote schooling experience to be incredibly rewarding. I usually describe myself as a pretty "Type A" person. I love routine and structure and really felt like I had a good system and schedule set up for myself as a student here at F&M by the end of my first year. I love being busy and running across campus to classes and different club meetings, etc. When I learned that we would be fully remote in the fall semester, I was anxious at the thought of not having a set schedule of where I had to be at what time. I could have let this deter and negatively impact me in my academics and social life. Instead, I am proud of the way I implemented a routine for myself whether that be through scheduling walks outside, baking, or watching TV and continued to stay motivated and driven, and excel in my academics and the clubs and activities I hold leadership roles in and participate in.

What are you looking forward to this year?: I am looking forward to being in the classroom again this year. I really missed being able to sit physically among my peers and engage with what I am learning. I already have had some incredible class discussions this year that I know are so much more meaningful and rewarding in an in-person environment as opposed to on Zoom. It has been so nice to meet many of the professors face to face who I had online last year and just walk across campus from class to class and wave to people I know. I have really loved being able to reconnect with the F&M community as a whole.

What challenges do you foresee this year?: As much as it is what I am most looking forward to, adjusting to in-person classes again after a year of fully online school has already proven to be a challenge to me. Last year in Zoom classes, if you were ever bored or needed a break, you could turn your camera off fast, get up to get a snack, open another tab on your laptop, etc. There was always some way to occupy or distract yourself. Now that we are back in person, we are taking notes in our notebooks with our laptops away, our phones are tucked into our bags, and we are expected to engage solely with the course material, the professor, and our peers. This has been hard for me as I have found it increasingly difficult to stay focused during class. I find myself fidgeting, staring at the clock, shaking my leg etc., all tendencies I have never experienced before learning online. I think the adjustment back to in-person classes and the change in attention span from students after this past year is something that is incredibly challenging but is also going slightly unaddressed.

Have you found a place on campus that is meaningful to you?: The Klehr Center for Jewish Life.

What advice do you have for other juniors like you? I advise other juniors to not be so hard on themselves. Adjusting back to in-person classes after being remote for about a year and a half is incredibly challenging. It's hard to focus, relearn what it means to study for an in-person exam, and budget time for getting from class to class. I have found myself getting frustrated and incredibly overwhelmed as I feel like there are not enough hours in the day to do everything I set out to do. I feel as though I can never do anything at 100% as I always have to sacrifice one thing to get another done. I think many other students feel similarly, so I advise everyone to be kind to one another and just remember that if you are struggling, most likely other people are as well.

"When sophomores were told we weren't returning to campus fall semester... six of us rented a house in Ventnor City, N.J., for the semester to try to create a sense of normalcy and a feeling of an F&M community for ourselves in a time that was so uncertain.

"We all took our remote classes under the same roof, cooked dinners together, celebrated birthdays, went for long walks on the beach, and so much more." – Mollie Katzen '23


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