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After a year and a half of Zoom University, many of us are finally back on campus. For the class of 2024, like me, this is also our first time living on campus. It has been quite a shock after social distancing and seeing each other through boxes on our computers to now living in an entirely new place, crowding together in tiny elevators, and sitting in actual classrooms. A whirlwind of changes have been thrown at us. As much as I was excited the months and days leading up to move-in day, a few weeks into classes my view on this perfect city has completely changed. I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with in-person college life and NYC. Initially these were negative experiences, but I’ve found a way to put a positive spin on it.

  1. Feeling Homesick 

The Negative: I didn’t realize how much I would miss my parents and my younger siblings after living away from home for the first time. My family and I always planned fun trips on the weekends, and it was really strange to see them doing things without me. I missed them terribly and wanted to go home so badly, even though I had just returned a few days ago. Being on my own was not something I was used to.

The Positive: After wasting that Saturday wallowing in my homesickness, it was time to channel all this alone time into doing something good. I learned to keep busy with good friends, who encouraged me to study. If I was home, I definitely would not be this productive studying! I was never on my own like this before, so this was also my chance to learn how to do things on my own. I went grocery shopping for myself — and that was quite the experience!

  1. You Have to Walk Everywhere

The Negative: In my hometown we drove everywhere — my high school was less than a mile and even then I drove there every morning. Living in NYC and getting from class to class on campus has been a lot of walking. The worst part is when you’re coming back from the dining hall with your lunch and dinner and lugging three take out boxes and a drink. That walk back is my time to recount everything I hate about campus.

The Positive: Walking everywhere is a hassle, but it is also the best exercise for busy college students. Going to the gym may not be a good option for a lot of us in a still pandemic world. It is quite nice to be able to have everything walking distance and not to have to worry about parking or driving.

  1. We’re Frosh Sophomores 

The Negative: On the point of walking around everywhere, for many of us, we have no idea where we are going! The sophomores were completely ignored during orientation week and none of us have had a proper tour. 

The Positive: Not being roped into orientation activities seems to be a plus. We were able to use that week to explore on our own and meet people in a comfortable setting (without awkward Zoom icebreakers!). It’s always exciting to be in a new place when everything is new — we should take advantage of this time, explore, and have fun!

  1. Dangerous at Night

The Negative: Yes, explore the city and have fun — but be back before sundown. NYC is an exciting city, but it is quite dangerous too — especially in the area we are in. I have encountered some strange people while walking back to my building — and that is during the daytime!

The Positive: Although this can seem somewhat inconvenient, it makes you realize the importance of taking advantage of your mornings. Rather than staying up late and being a supposed “night owl,” I’ve been able to get so much done a few hours before class starts too. Whether that’s getting a head start on readings or enjoying a quick morning walk, I appreciate the mornings way more than the nights!

  1. Social Distancing (Sort of)

The Negative: We were all excited to come to campus, but the reality is, we are not completely used to all this social interaction. I know I still flinch when I hear someone sneeze (forget saying bless you — they become the social outcast!) It is also so nerve wracking getting emails that someone in your 200 in-person class had COVID. We’re back at full capacity, so it is nearly impossible to distance ourselves from each other.

The Positive: We still must be cautious, keep our masks on, and get tested, but being back in person has helped me out a lot with focusing in class and doing group activities again.

  1. The Dining Hall Fiasco

The Negative: Even though I brought bowls of my mom’s food, I miss having a hot meal from home a lot. The dining halls often don’t have what I am looking for either — and I think we are all pretty annoyed with how packed it is! 

The Positive: Having the option to go to the dining hall has saved me time and the worry about what I need to eat next. I’ve also been exposed to different types of food that I haven’t tried back home. 

  1. Living in a New Room

The Negative: It has been an adjustment living in a new room. For the first few weeks I could barely sleep and study in my dorm room. I was used to my old room and everything in it that made it homey.

The Positive: Having a roommate has been truly a blessing! We’re both from big and loud families, so it’s nice to have someone to chat with and unwind!

Sabrina Salam

Columbia Barnard '24

Sabrina Salam is a first year at Barnard College hoping to pursue law, writing, and psychology. When she isn't exploring topics on social justice to write about, Sabrina loves to watch documentaries and hike with her family.
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