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Being Back at CU, From a Sophomore Who Only Knew a COVID-19 Campus

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

I entered my freshman year of college during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many 2020 high school seniors did. My experience as a first-year student was not conventional. Instead of eating in the dining halls, I ordered my food through an app and took it back to my room in a to-go container to eat with my roommate. Instead of attending in person events, clubs and organizations hosted meetings via Zoom. Classes were also held remotely making learning near impossible. This freshman year format made it difficult to meet people, get involved, and create a community at the University of Colorado Boulder. 

Once vaccines began to be distributed at the beginning of 2021, I grew hopeful for a nearly normal semester and start to my sophomore year in the fall. I have now been back in Boulder and on CU’s campus for the past three weeks. In such a short amount of time, though, I’ve noticed so many changes from my previous experience. The greatest change is the liveliness of the campus. During my freshman year, there were few people. I was lucky to have one in person class both semesters. Walking on campus was something I, strangely enough, looked forward to as a part of my college experience; however, in August of 2020 while walking to my first class, I was alone. If I was lucky enough to run into someone, it was awkward to meet them as our faces were covered by masks and social distancing policies were in place. It’s frightening enough to walk up to others and try to make friends, and a raging pandemic only heightened the uncomfortability of social interactions. 

On the first day of classes this fall, I was excited to see so many students bustling around an ever-green campus. It was so packed that bicyclists were having a hard time navigating their paths during busy passing periods. This is what I pictured when I accepted my admission to CU. I wanted to be surrounded by the beautiful buildings and majestic mountains, but I also imagined the people. I wanted the energy of it all. I ran into friends that I knew from my freshman year and managed to make new ones, too.

In addition to something so simple yet so joyous like walking around on campus, I have also experienced first-year traditions as I am living on campus again as an RA. Events that the rest of my class and I missed out on in 2020 such as Kickoff and the BeInvolved Fair gave me so much insight on what it meant to be a Buff and how to get further involved on campus. These effective events and resources made it easy to love to be a Buff. 

My favorite event from the first few weeks, though, had to be the first home football game against the University of Northern Colorado. It felt so vaguely familiar to make pre-game plans with friends, get ready together, and cheer on a team in the student section. Although I haven’t done that since my senior year of high school, I was ready to go Friday night with my mobile ticket in one hand and a black and gold pom-pom in the other. It was an added bonus that we won. Can I get a “Sko Buffs?”

Overall, reflecting on the first few weeks of school and being back on campus, I feel overwhelmingly thankful. I’m thankful to be back on campus. I’m thankful to be healthy. I’m thankful to be able to have such a great start to the semester. I can only hope that this positive momentum continues and makes for a great second year at CU.

Courtney Rael

CU Boulder '24

Courtney is an editor and writer at HER Campus CU Boulder. She is currently a junior majoring in political science and minoring in journalism and business. In her free time, Courtney enjoys listening to music, drinking coffee, and staying active.