Skip to main content

COLONY – Even before COVID-19, students heading to college were being hunted.

They often chose extracurricular activities that matched their chosen career. Hobbies that didn’t fit that purpose fell away.

Particularly after the pandemic, college professors say they are seeing a generation of students who have forgotten how to have fun.

“We are so focused on our jobs, our careers and our grades. The pendulum has swung so far away from finding a good work-life balance that I wanted to do my one small part to push the pendulum just a tiny bit in the other direction,” said Dan Moriarty, Professor at Siena College.

Before the pandemic, to inject fun and train “full-fledged” students, he had offered one-credit life skills courses in hobbies like judo. Now he has stepped up his efforts, urging his fellow teachers to offer pass-fail classes in everything from embroidery to wine tasting.

Now it’s taking off, with many students enrolling.

“We spent so much time in isolation and watching each other through computer screens that I just wanted us to be able to come back to college and have these fun experiences,” he said. “Now that we’re back, it seems much more necessary.”

It is unclear exactly why the students stopped pursuing hobbies. The isolation of the pandemic hurt them — trauma to their psyches, he said — and people stopped gathering in groups.

“I think you can at least partly blame that on ‘I’m so focused on doing well in high school so I can get into college,'” he added.

One student said he could no longer draw for fun – only for lessons.

Others said they couldn’t remember when they found time for an unrelated hobby.

“It all got very serious,” said Professor Krysta Dennis, who now teaches a one-credit Wines Around the World course. “Students are very focused on their careers now. In some ways, that’s a good thing. But college is about learning, not finding a job. It’s a wonderful side effect of learning.

She wants to make sure students find joy in life outside of their studies and eventual careers.

“We want to create nuanced human beings,” Dennis said.

Aidan O’Connor, a senior, pursues homebrewing, which he says allows him to share something that is “only me”. He is studying sociology, but now he is doing a research project on wine tasting.

Dennis captivated a group of elders for two hours on Wednesday as she explained the weather and soil conditions that affect the taste of wines from New Zealand and Australia. The students tasted six wines according to the official method: spitting out the wine after each tasting. This is not a class for getting drunk.

His students will end up with “healthy habits,” Dennis said, “and they can confidently order from the wine list and enjoy their meal.”

One of his students is also taking two other one-credit hobby courses this semester, in painting and drawing. She said many of her friends take college and career preparation very seriously, but she has seen a change this year.

“I feel like they’re coming out of this last year,” she said. “Let’s take fun classes. Let’s enjoy our time.