Fox finds first year difficult yet enjoyable

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Andi Fox

Fox (second from right) with her teammates during a swim meet.

March came with COVID-19, and college students heading back to their hometowns in an attempt to contain the spread. Alumni Andrea Fox was one of the many freshmen sent back home after only spending a semester at college.

Fox attends Grinnell College, a small liberal college in Iowa, where she is on their collegiate swim team and is considering majoring in either chemistry or biochemistry. She decided to go to Grinell after touring the campus and assessing all of the opportunities Grinnell gives their students.

“I knew I wanted to go to a liberal arts school. Grinnell has a lot of high quality resources for helping students, the academics are rigorous, and there are a lot of opportunities for research, which appealed to me,” Fox said.

Despite her shortened time on campus, Fox has fond memories of the college and the friends she met there.

“I don’t think I really have one single best moment. I have a lot of really good, smaller moments with my friends. For instance a group of my friends and I would go hang out with the swim team on weekends and then go back to the dorm and watch horror movies until we fell asleep. It’s small things like that with a few of my friends that were a lot of fun,” Fox said.

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Fox pictured with the entire Grinnell women’s swim and dive team. (Photo Courtesy of Andi Fox)

However, her first semester wasn’t just one big happy memory, it came with some ups and downs. 

“The beginning of the first semester was pretty difficult for me because I signed up for classes that all happened to have an unusually large amount of work, plus I had swim practices, and I got a concussion in September,” Fox said. “The type of work was also very different from the type of work in high school, so it was certainly an adjustment. Once I got used to it; however, it wasn’t bad at all. I’d probably rate my first year overall a seven out of ten on difficulty. It’s also worth mentioning that while my classes were hard, they were all interesting and I enjoyed them a lot, so it was still a great experience.”

For Fox, high school classes and college classes proved to be less similar than she anticipated, with few high school classes proving to be useful. However, all of her older classes gave her important life skills that she still uses.

“In my limited college experience, the type of work in high school is very different from that of college, but highschool did help me develop an efficient work ethic and good planning/time management skills. Also, a few of my AP classes were helpful in particular, my experience with AP English was useful for my Humanities classes,” Fox said. “I don’t really think there was much more I could’ve done in high school to prepare for college. I probably should’ve taken textbook reading more seriously in high school, because that’s pretty much what all of my assignments are, and I’ve since discovered that I’m kind of inefficient and slow at reading textbooks.” 

Learning online for Fox was harder than in person learning, because of the many different time zones students at Grinnell have. Therefore, all of her learning was done asynchronously. This also caused her workload to pile up and class quality to decline, especially her labs. 

“The virus definitely made school a lot harder. Many students at Grinnell are international, so we couldn’t have live classes because there were too many time zones to consider. The workload increased by a lot and the quality of my classes decreased because my professors had to cut out material to ensure we weren’t overwhelmed,” Fox said. “Chemistry lab being online was pretty inconvenient as well. It was more difficult to learn the material in some of my classes and it was a lot harder to be motivated while learning online, as I’m sure most students experienced.”

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Fox swim the butterfly stroke during her team training trip in Florida last December. (Photo Courtesy of Andi Fox)

As for her swimming training, she was unable to continue training in a pool and resorted to exercising on land. 

“I got an optional workout plan from my coaches in March, but I, along with many of my teammates, prefer to do workouts on our own. Very few of us have access to a pool, but my coaches expect us to keep up with some form of physical activity. I’ve been working out almost everyday, though, just so I don’t get bored,” Fox said. 

When she was on Grinell’s campus, Fox swam with the team in their sprint training group, similar to her past swimming training experiences. 

“At Grinnell, there are only two training groups: one is for sprinters and one is for distance swimmers. I was in the sprint group. The practices were pretty similar to the ones my former VAST coach gave us. They were challenging but very doable, and you pretty much control the difficulty level by how hard you try,” Fox said. 

Although Fox has had her highs and lows in her semester at Grinnell, she believes she has improved on a few key skills. 

“My writing, speaking/presentation skills, and critical thinking has improved way more than I had expected. Athletically, I got some PRs and my technique has improved,” Fox said. 

Fox’s main advice for her high school self now is to not stress as much over the little things.

“I would tell my highschool self to not take everything so seriously. A lot of the tests or essays that I stressed over seem very insignificant now. One or two bad grades on a test or quiz doesn’t translate to a bad grade in the class,” Fox said. 

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