College during COVID-19: The first-year student athlete’s perspective


Kylee Duarte

First-year student and Guilford softball player Kylee Duarte.

“Eventful. Tiring. Exciting.” 

Those are the three words first-year student Kylee Duarte used to describe her college experience thus far.

Coming to college for the first time is already hectic and nerve-wracking enough. It is most students’ first time living without their parents, and learning to juggle the new responsibilities that come with adult life can be difficult. However, first-year college students of 2020 face an entirely new obstacle: adjusting to college life in the midst of a global pandemic.

Due to the pandemic, many first-years wondered if moving onto campus would be a good idea. While she was initially apprehensive, Duarte chose to look at the bright side of the situation.

“I was very nervous coming to campus because I did not know what to expect or how to stay safe on campus,” Duarte said. “…I decided to come on campus because I felt that I needed to make the best out of this situation with the pandemic.” 

As a first-year women’s softball player, Duarte has had to adjust to playing her sport while following COVID-19 restrictions.

“As a softball athlete, I feel that our coach and softball team follow all the rules due to COVID,” Duarte said. “We always wear our masks when practicing, and sanitize before and after practice. We want to keep practicing, so we try to follow all of the rules.”

Despite the challenge of making friends during the pandemic, Duarte has found ways to bond with her teammates.

“With social distancing, it has been hard to meet new people, especially since I am a first-year. Starting off with a person you know as a roommate really helped me get out there,” Duarte said. “My roommate, Grace Calus, and I met at a softball camp back in November of 2019, and we got closer over the summer through social media… I also reached out to the (first-years) playing softball this year because these were going to be my teammates for the rest of my four years here.” 

Duarte described the difficulties of balancing schoolwork, social life and sports during these unprecedented times. 

“At first, the pandemic took a toll on my social life because I could not be a normal (first-year) and meet new people before classes started, but as the semester went on, I was able to find teammates and friends in my own way,” Duarte explained. “As an athlete, it was hard to not be on the field with my team, but my roommate and I would always go hitting and throwing in our free time. Staying positive and motivated is the best way to get through this hard time.”

“To help me relax, I would usually call my best friends from back home since I miss them a lot, and just being able to talk to someone that has always been there for me truly helps,” Duarte continued. “… To get stuff done, I plan my schedule for the day in advance… It helps me stay on task… studying with friends helps as well.”

Duarte emphasized the welcoming nature of the women’s softball team and of Guilford in general.

“For softball, I remember coming to the first camp, and I was nervous that I would not be good enough for the team, but I was wrong,” Duarte said. “The team was so welcoming. I felt like I was part of a loving community. Also, Guilford offered me an opportunity to double major in early education and psychology, helping me pursue my dream job as an elementary school teacher.”

Duarte also shared her favorite memory of her college experience so far.

“One memory that stands out to me would be bonding with all of the other (first-years) playing softball. The first week we moved in, we all helped each other move in and get to know each other… This created a great foundation for our class on the team.”

Despite the challenges of entering college in the midst of COVID-19 Duarte has learned a lot from the experience. 

“Coming to college during this time has shaped me to be more independent and safe at the same time,” Duarte said. “I had to learn… how to take care of myself, and sometimes others as well.”