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My College Is Open This Fall—Should I Actually Go Back?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Last week, I attended a not-so-fun Zoom birthday party for a college friend. While most Zoomers expressed their excitement for the fall semester, my best friend, the pessimist of the bunch, said “I’m never leaving my room next fall.”

I’ve never considered myself a pessimist. Lemon yellow is my favorite color. I start off family feasts by asking what the best part of everyone’s day was. “Dancing Queen” by ABBA is my alarm song in the morning. However, I do consider myself a realist in terms of practicality.

My high school experience fell somewhere between Carrie and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I envisioned that college would be a Legally Blonde and House Bunny double-feature.

Yet, daydreaming about the upcoming fall semester troubles me. I cannot think of one aspect of my college experience that will not be sacrificed to some extent. I paint a mental picture where one fan cheers “go bears” to the football team, surrounded by empty bleachers. I imagine that the cafeteria will be a dine-and-dash situation, where touching a spoon incites fear.

All jokes aside, I have begun to think unconventionally about my future. I cannot disregard my anxieties about the upcoming year. I envy the older students who returned home from college three, four years ago, claiming that college was the best time of their lives. If my college experience is a bank full of cash, I feel as though the robbers have already stolen half the money, and they are currently placing the rest (Franklins only) in brown bags. I have been cheated. 

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

I have to evaluate this situation with a serious mindset compared to the rest of my peers, because I’m at high risk for contracting COVID-19 due to immune problems. Last year, I came down with the flu. I had a fever for so long that my mom had to come and take care of me like a toddler. To say my body handles germs and viruses wrong is an understatement. Before grabbing the metal door handle to my English class, my mind will be racing, imaging those invisible bacteria about to pounce on my plum nail polish.

Some students with stable financial situations are considering renting a house if campus proves to be unsafe. For some, this would be a house a few miles from campus, and for others, it would be a Malibu beach house with a stable Wi-Fi connection. On campus, some admin have suggested creating a closed circuit of a few peers for nighttime interaction. In my opinion, this isn’t spring break. This isn’t a five-month long sleepover. I have barely skimmed the surface of spending time with the people I want to meet and forge relationships with.

For other students, the thought of campus is daunting. The only option is online learning. Inequality will only increase on campus. Wealthy students will have the upper hand in a manner that is extremely evident. Even with so much loss and sacrifice, tuition prices remain the same. 

I don’t want to live on a campus full of inequality. Full of confusion. Full of fear. My college, Washington University in St. Louis, is keeping their detailed policies a secret — although they have announced that students are welcome to return in the fall. They plan to enforce social distancing — but I wonder if the board in control of my semesters at college are taking all factors into account.

College dropout was never part of my agenda. If the situation worsens, I will not force myself to remain in a system of discomfort. I will leave. I will apply for every remote internship and job I can find. My life can handle the adjustment. My 30-year plan will morph into a 31-year plan.

So, for now? I have no answers for you or for me. The once simple joys of college are now unattainable, and that is something we all need to cope with. I will take every day carefully, constantly evaluating my mental and physical health. I will weigh the pros and cons of staying on campus.

Although I’m sick and tired of the massive pause button placed on my college experience, I’m not sure if pressing play will do me any good. But, it’s worth a shot. I can always leave, head held high, knowing that the rewind button is an option.

Aliya is an Editorial Intern for Her Campus Media, as well as a member of the Her Campus and Spoon University community at her college. She is a student at Washington University in St. Louis, with a major in American Culture Studies and a minor in Design. When she’s not aggressively snapping ~artsy~ photos or binge-watching films, Aliya is most likely obsessing over absurd fashion trends or perhaps trying them herself.
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