Lillian Hucke ’24  |   Published November 19, 2020

A Most Unusual First Year

First-year Monmouth students reflect on an abnormal start to their college experience – and reveal some of the best places on campus to study.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – College is supposed to be a time to be active. It’s a time when a student can try new classes, go to sporting events or hang out with new friends.

TORI COOK ?24: The mechanical engineering major says the Center for Science and Business has grea... TORI COOK ’24: The mechanical engineering major says the Center for Science and Business has great places to study.But this fall at Monmouth College, campus life was relatively quiet because of the impact of the COVID-19 virus.

Three Monmouth College freshman – Tucker Peterson of Stronghurst, Illinois, Anita Gándara of Chicago and Tori Cook of Joliet, Illinois – recently shared their experiences of being a first-year college student during a global pandemic.

Although the 2020-21 school year has not been a typical one yet, the three first-year students expressed gratitude for the opportunity to be on campus. They all have a positive outlook on the school year and hope for a more “normal” Monmouth in the near future.

Why Monmouth College?

As they made their already difficult decision of what to do next, this year’s class of high school graduates knew if they attended college, the fall semester was not going to be what they had originally imagined. Peterson, Gándara and Cook stuck with their choice of enrolling at Monmouth because of the connection they made with the campus community.

Peterson said he always knew he was going to attend Monmouth because his family has a long history with the College. He’s part of the Ford family, who received Monmouth’s Family of the Year honor in 2014.

Gándara chose Monmouth because she saw the value in a liberal arts college and said she felt a connection to the professors and students the moment she stepped on campus.

Cook pictured herself at Monmouth because she always wanted to attend a small college. She was also able to be a member of the Fighting Scots’ lacrosse team.

Classes and study methods

ANITA GÁNDARA '24: Chose Monmouth because it's a liberal arts college. ANITA GÁNDARA '24: Chose Monmouth because it's a liberal arts college.Peterson is majoring in accounting and hopes to become a certified public accountant. The best study method he’s found is to write on note cards or make himself a typed study sheet. A commuter, Peterson does most of his studying at home.

“It’s very advantageous to study at home because there are no distractions,” he said.

Gándara and Cook, who live on campus, utilize the quiet breakout rooms in the College’s Center for Science and Business.

A political science major, Gándara studies in the breakout rooms because they are somewhere different to think, and break the routine of being in her residence hall room.

Cook finds the breakout rooms to be a quiet place where she can put her thoughts together. The mechanical engineering major keeps her thoughts and calculations organized with large dry-erase whiteboards.

“Writing it down on the whiteboard really helps because I don’t like to take up space in my notebook,” she said. “It allows me to keep all my ideas organized.”

Not normal


Campus life has not been as busy as usual this fall. First-year students have not experienced popular events such as Fighting Scots games, Homecoming Week or Family Weekend.

But the three first-year students said they don’t feel like they are missing out – they have just not physically experienced Monmouth traditions. The biggest issue for them is hearing from older students about all the experiences they’ve yet to have.

“I am frustrated in a sad way,” said Gándara. “No reason to get worked up about the things I can’t control, but it still makes me sad.”

TUCKER PETERSON '24: Majoring in accounting and hopes to become a certified public accountant... TUCKER PETERSON '24: Majoring in accounting and hopes to become a certified public accountant.Even with limited social interaction, first-year students have not struggled to meet new people. Peterson, Gándara and Cook have met people in their residence halls, band ensembles, sororities and teams. They say it is easy to meet people at Monmouth, but the issue is finding a way to hang out with them while maintaining social distancing.

“The challenge was knowing what we were allowed to do, and the rules of how we could gather together,” said Cook.

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