Joel Jones, making connections in person

Joel Jones is a second year Computer Science major from Atlanta, Georgia. He is originally from the northwestern part of the US, but he moved to live with his aunt and uncle in Georgia for more educational opportunities.

Joel started his first year at Georgia Tech amidst the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. He finished his high school career online, then moved into a dorm to start his college education from a laptop. A lot of things looked different for Joel’s start to college compared to a ‘typical’ college experience: he was split from his roommate to live alone, he took all of his classes online, he had to get his food to go and eat in his dorm, and he had next to no in person social interaction.

Joel felt it never really seemed like his start to college; the classes online were almost too easy and he couldn’t engage with his peers. Though he tried starting conversations online during classes, ‘breakout rooms’ never really seemed to be the best form of communication. Though he did rush a fraternity, Joel couldn’t find a club or organization to help him feel connected to campus. He did appreciate efforts from his RA, but nothing seemed to really stick. Joel didn’t really feel apart of college or apart of the Georgia Tech community.

Come Fall 2021, students return to campus and classes move back to a more traditional format. Joel was so excited to get a fresh start to his college experience. His biggest point of elation was in person classes. He loves being able to talk to his professors and share a room with his classmates. He already feels a better connection to campus, working as an RA, but he still has room to grow.

Interestingly, in Joel’s second year first semester, he seems similar to a new first year. He struggles to find buildings on campus and is still looking for clubs to join. However, now that Georgia Tech has shifted toward a more open campus, Joel is able to learn and grow in a way that people typically equate to the first year experience. That said, Joel’s first year online was its own unique experience on growth. In limbo between high school and the postcard college experience, Joel learned how important it is to reach out and talk with people. He still shared some of the usual first year experiences like moving away from home and changing his major after taking linear algebra.

Despite an unconventional start, Joel is excited to continue learning and connecting at Georgia Tech. Learn more about Joel’s experiences and story in this Empathy Bytes interview.


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