Arts & Life, Features

First-year students’ non traditional college experience at Long Beach State

Selfie of student Hahnl Lo
Courtesy of Hahnl Lo

As his father made the trip back to Pleasanton in Northern California, Hahnl Lo finished putting the rest of his belongings inside his dorm room at  Parkside College at Long Beach State. 

After settling in, the first-year student sat in his desk chair surrounded by empty white walls and an extra bed, not knowing what to do. 

“The first night I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t talk to anyone,” Lo said. “I realized, I’m alone here.” 

But by the second day, Lo met the other student in his suite and was making friends with the rest of his peers at Parkside. 

“It’s pretty diverse here, which I like,” Lo said. “There’s a lot of different perspectives.”

Lo, who is a kinesiology major, said he decided to commit to CSULB because it offered the most affordable program out of all of the other schools he was accepted into. 

Lo said he has adjusted well into his new settings despite not being the biggest fan of remote learning. 


“It makes it feel trivial,” Lo said. “I like to be in a classroom because I guess the struggle for me is staying on top of all my stuff. 

But Lo said it has helped joining group chats with his peers where they share resources and information as they remain together on the empty campus. 

In spite of online learning, Lo said he is excited to pursue his degree to become a physical therapist. 

“I want to see if this is really like a passion for me or see if I might change my outlook or what I want to do,” Lo said. 

Selfie of student Damien Zimmerman
Courtesy of Damien Zimmerman

Damien Zimmerman is a first-year film and electronic arts major who chose the option to study narrative production at CSULB. 

Zimmerman lives in Taiwan, where he was born and raised in. He struggles with a busy schedule, often sleep deprived as he regularly attends class from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. due to the 15 hour difference. 

Zimmerman said he had long planned to travel following his high school graduation and felt CSULB was the perfect place to continue his adventure. 

“Cal State Long Beach was just the most accessible to me in terms of cost, and I felt like the school really fit me in terms of personality and opportunities they have there,” Zimmerman said. 

But when the coronavirus pandemic struck and remote learning began, Zimmerman postponed his move to the United States, opting to learn from home in order to stay close to his family. 

“I was expecting more of that traditional college experience,” Zimmerman said. “I was hoping to hit the beach a lot and have California weather for the first time and live in America for the first time where I wasn’t necessarily a minority in a country that I’ve lived in my whole life.” 

While he is adjusting to his new college schedule, Zimmerman said using BeachBoard has been the most stressful part of his CSULB experience, having to check it multiple times a day to make sure he did not forget an assignment by accident. 

“I think managing my work has been kind of difficult because BeachBoard is a new system to me and I’m learning new things about it every time I’m getting on there,” Zimmerman said.

Selfie of student Diana Alvirado
Courtesy of Diana Alvirado

Diana Alvirado is a first-year interior design major and a first-generation college student from Los Angeles who chose CSULB because it is one of the top schools that offered her program. 

As an interior design major, Alvirado said remote learning has been difficult for students in her art classes who are missing out from valuable hands-on critiques from their instructors. 

“It’s really hard for the teacher to tell us what we did wrong and how to do it better over a screen,” Alvirado said. “We don’t really get the same opportunities and resources as if we were on campus.”


Before the pandemic, Alvirado was looking forward to using CSULB’s tutoring resources at the Learning Center. 

“It’s hard being a first-generation student because I don’t have the ability to talk to my parents and be like ‘I have this situation and I don’t know what to do,” Alvirado said. “They don’t have an educational background.” 

Alvirado said what she is looking forward to most is going back to in-person instruction so she can improve on her art technique.

“It’s difficult to learn to shade or draw without the professor being there in person,” Alvirado said. “Sometimes classes get cancelled because of technological difficulties and it’s just not the same.”

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