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

Content Warning: gun violence, mass shootings

When I got accepted to CU, everyone told me that college would be the best four years of my life. I arrived at my dorm in August 2019 excited for those words to become reality. I thought I’d have the best time of my life being a college student.

Safe to say…things did not go as planned.

I’m two months away from graduating, and I can confidently say that I am not the same person that I was when I started here (as cliché as that sounds). I wish that was a positive thing, but it isn’t. I’ve changed not because I wanted to, but because I had to.

It took me longer than most people to adjust to college life. I don’t always handle change well, and the leap from high school to college is one of the biggest changes of all. I was finally getting into the swing of things in spring 2020 when COVID-19 struck and I was sent back home for months. I took classes online and hardly saw my friends for over a year during isolation, and like most people, that was rough on me mentally. 

Worse, only a week after I moved back to Boulder for sophomore year, my beloved childhood dog passed away. I woke up one morning to missed calls from my mom trying to break the news. I was heartbroken that I was away from my family during one of the hardest days of our lives, and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.

I thought these would be the hardest things I would have to go through during college, but I was wrong.

In March 2021, a mass shooting took place at my local grocery store. The store was so close, I could hear the emergency vehicle sirens from my bedroom, and the event had me shaken to my core. That was the grocery store I went to every week, and images of the shooting haunted my every moment. I had to process the fact that 10 people were killed right around the corner from my house in an act of senseless gun violence, and the fact that I easily could have been there as well.

Photo taken in front of the store four days after the tragedy.

These events, but particularly the shooting, completely changed the trajectory of my college career. My grades dipped, I had to quit multiple jobs because I couldn’t stop having panic attacks at work, and it took months of therapy to finally feel even a little bit okay again. Now, even though I’m feeling much better about the trauma this all caused, it almost feels too late – I’m mere weeks away from graduating.

It’s hard not to feel like my college experience has been ripped away from me. Even though I’ve met amazing friends, taken the most interesting classes, and grew to love the amazing city of Boulder over the past three and a half years, when I look back on my time here, I’ll never be able to forget these events. I go back to King Soopers often after its reopening, and it feels okay, but every once in a while my mind flashes to what it must have been like to be there that awful day. 

My time at CU has not been all bad. There are some things I’ve done and people I’ve met that I am incredibly grateful for. Still, I can’t say the usual “I wouldn’t change a thing!” If I could, I’d go back and change almost everything. There is no “bright side” to these traumatic events happening. They absolutely suck and ruined what could have been the best parts of my life. 

If you feel the same way about your college experience, you aren’t alone. Especially for us Boulder residents, the past few years have been pretty awful, and there is nothing wrong with openly discussing how bad things have felt, but I have faith that things will get better. These past years taught me some hard lessons, but I also learned that the community of Boulder is strong and resilient and so am I. Despite all of this, I’m still getting my degree. I’m feeling better and know that each day I am doing all that I can to recover and show myself grace.

Photo taken outside the memorial site by King Soopers four days after the shooting. Unknown artist.

I’m not grateful for these experiences, but I’m grateful to be graduating despite them. I’m grateful for the people who have helped me through such a difficult period in my life. I’m not the same person I was when I came to college, and that’s okay. The person I am got me through some really tough times, and I love her for it.

Jordyn Stapleton has been a National Lifestyle Writer for Her Campus since February 2023. She covers a variety of topics in her articles, but is most passionate about writing about mental health and social justice issues. Jordyn graduated from CU Boulder in December 2022 with Bachelor’s degrees in music and psychology with a minor in gender studies and a certificate in public health. Jordyn was involved in Her Campus during college, serving as an Editorial Assistant and later Editor-in-Chief for the CU Boulder chapter. She has also worked as a freelance stringer for the Associated Press. Jordyn is currently taking a gap year and working at a local business in Boulder, with hopes of attending graduate school in fall 2024. Jordyn enjoys reading, bullet journalling, and listening to (preferably Taylor Swift) music in her free time. If she isn’t brainstorming her next article, you can usually find her exploring coffee shops or hiking trails around Boulder with her friends.