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I knew CU was right for me after I toured the campus my senior year of high school. It was impossible to resist the stunning backdrop of the Flatirons, the green spaces on campus, the number of students playing frisbee and spikeball on Farrand Field, and the overall “vibe” of Boulder itself. So when I got accepted, it didn’t take a second thought to say yes. CU Boulder has provided me with lifelong friendships and so many memories I’m convinced I wouldn’t have made had I gone somewhere else. I truly found my home here, and the last four years have been some of the most memorable ones of my 21 years of life.

Boulder Flatirons

I was so anxious about moving into my dorm hall, and, while there was some excitement, I also wanted to bury myself in my childhood bed that morning and never leave. My parents helped me get moved in and a lot of the nerves began to go away as I realized everyone there was in the exact same boat as me, and it didn’t feel so daunting anymore. By the time I knew it, my parents were walking away, and I was already making friends doing those silly icebreaker games they always make you do on the first day. By that first night, I met the people who would go on to be my roommates, the people I’d grow to hate, and the person I’d fall in love with. 

Now, I have to thank Libby Hall for providing me with the friends I will have for life. My mom told me before I left home that college is so unique because you’ll grow so close to people in such a quick time, it could feel like you’ve been friends for 10 years, but it’ll only have been four weeks. She was right. The friends I made my freshman year, besides a few of them, are still my main group of people, and I feel like we’ve been friends for all time when in reality, we’ve only known each other for a small portion of our lives. Those friends, I know, will stay with me past graduation. And, on the other hand, some people fell out of my life after freshmen year and we don’t talk anymore, but it ended up being a good thing. 

My freshman year was a huge transition, and many of us who have gone through the college experience can relate. I was finally on my own and, while I was fairly independent in high school, it was so different not having to answer to my parents all the time and fully make my own decisions. To put it even further into perspective, I was not a partier in high school, I stayed at home a lot, and all I had time for was my dance company classes. So, let’s just say coming to one of the bigger party schools was a big shift. The academic change was huge, too. I mean, I thought high school was hard until I had to take college-level Gen Bio, and all of a sudden it didn’t matter that I knew mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. I changed a lot after freshman year, for the reasons above and so many more. Overall, coming out of that year, I felt like I could do and handle anything, and even though I still felt very much like a child, at the same time I felt a little more adult and like I really accomplished something. 

Me hiking at Chautauqua

So then sophomore year comes along, and I’m living with my three other roommates off-campus in my first ever apartment. Getting that apartment was a hassle, but after moving in I was so happy to not have a community bathroom or a tiny dorm room anymore; we were living in luxury. That year, besides the change of having to commute to campus, I also had to teach myself how the hell to grocery shop, which honestly I still majorly struggle with (and hate) today. I also had my car with me and got a job, which added an extra layer of stress and the push for me to figure out how to manage my time. But looking back on that now, I’m so glad I took the job because it’s really helped me figure out how to be an expert time manager, and I also still work at the same place and love it (who wouldn’t love working in a spa though?). 

The biggest change that happened sophomore year was the pandemic. That hit my second semester of sophomore year, and everything changed almost overnight. When I think about that time where nobody knew what was going on and all of us thought we were simply getting an extended spring break, it blows my mind that I’ll be graduating under similar circumstances. I remember it all went down the week after my birthday and all of my friends began to leave frantically. The hardest part was when my boyfriend left because he’s from Wisconsin, and I had no idea when I’d be able to see him again because everything was so uncertain. Yeah, that was a hard one. So then Boulder was empty, and since my place of work had shut down I went back home, too. Honestly, sometimes I miss that first month of quarantine when everyone was just at home taking up new hobbies, spending time with family, walking outside every day, and trying new TikTok trends. However, it was also heartbreaking to see our COVID numbers and deaths rising so quickly, and I was so scared for so long of infecting anyone. 

COVID-19 Update post via @cuboulder on Instagram

After we all evacuated, classes went online and my sophomore year basically felt like it had ended. By the time junior year came around I was so pumped to finally be around my friends again, be back on campus, and get back to life. The only thing that was weighing on my heart was that one of my roommates, who is still one of my closest friends in Boulder, had to move out of our place to somewhere farther away, which still makes me sad because I loved living with her so much. Other than that, I was ready to start the new semester. 

Due to the pandemic, I still spent a lot of time indoors, and my friends and I weren’t about to go out to any parties, but we found ways to make the most of it. The first semester of junior year was relatively smooth sailing, I was just happy to be around my people again after our time together ended so abruptly. But, the second semester of junior year was rough for a lot of reasons. I was going through a rough patch with my friends, I couldn’t stay motivated, and Zoom was just sucking the life out of me. I also decided to go on a break with my boyfriend after having some issues, and, because of COVID, I had figured out how to be okay and happy on my own, but it didn’t hurt any less. We got back together, but it stays a part of our history that I won’t forget. 

My roommates and I also decided to move out of our first-ever apartment after junior year ended. I was so excited and ready to be in a new space, but it was definitely bittersweet after all our bags were packed, the space was completely empty, and I locked the door for the last time.  

The end of junior year hit me like a ton of bricks, and I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I would finally be going into my last year at CU. It had also felt like I lost a whole year. A year of not making new friends in my classes because they were on Zoom, no face-to-face interactions, and not having the ability to go out and do things. I always feel bad complaining about it though because so many people experienced the same thing, and some of them definitely had it worse than I did. But I still was pretty exhausted and drained. On the other hand, I also had some excitement. I was getting ready to study abroad that summer (my experience was amazing), I was moving into a new place, and classes were set to be in-person once again. 

CU Boulder football game my senior year

The start of senior year was fantastic. I was so happy to be walking to campus every day and, while I still had some classes on zoom, I had an excuse to finally be back on CU grounds. Since my friends and I were all fully vaccinated we could mostly hang out without worrying anymore, and I finally felt like things were fairly normal again. Obviously, I was still trying to be safe but with so many of the people around me being vaccinated, it didn’t feel as scary and daunting. I finally felt happy and excited about life again. I was also keeping myself busy, which had its ups and downs. The ups are that I’ve found out over these four years that I like being busy and hate feeling like I’m not being productive. The downs were that every day felt the same and I realized that I literally have no hobbies. Also just being tired all the time, but sometimes I feel like that’s just a side effect of being a college student. For the most part, my first semester was great. I was having fun again. Until I got sick, which lasted for three months and entailed three doctors trips, all of which were unhelpful. It took me a while to feel like myself again, and even though the sickness was nothing more than a stuffy nose, exhaustion, and a lasting cough, it was enough to drain all my energy and make it difficult to get anything done. Let’s just say my body desperately needed winter break. I needed a break. 

And now here we are, the second semester of senior year, and it feels weird. The last four years, graduation just seemed like a tiny dot in the distance, and now it feels like it’s close enough to actually feel real, and I can’t figure out if I’m excited, happy, sad, anxious, or a combination of all of those things. From freshman year to now, I feel like I’ve grown and changed so much because of the experiences I’ve had. The difficult conversations I’ve had in my relationship, friendship drama, the overall challenges of being a college student, and everything in between shaped me to be who I am right now. I had thought I was an adult a long time ago, but now that I’m searching for jobs, about to turn 22, and getting ready to move out of Boulder for the first time in four years I really feel like a grown-up. Part of me feels ready, and the other part wants to hold onto my little Boulder bubble for the rest of my life. I think about all the small things that would happen my freshman year that felt like the end of the world, and now I wonder why on earth some of those things meant so much to me, and wish I could’ve told my past self to not spend so much energy on those things. Even though I don’t know exactly what I want to do in my future, I know a lot of other things about myself now that I didn’t know before, like that I need my space to be clean because it helps me think, I know what I want from my relationships, I know I value communication, I know sometimes I need to put myself first, and I know I can do a lot more than I think I can. So, yes, I’m nervous about what post-graduation is going to bring, but after spending these last four years at CU, I know I’ll be just fine.

Isabel Lopez

CU Boulder '22

Isabel is a junior studying Strategic Communication at CU Boulder with minors in Spanish and Dance. She loves spending time outside, yoga, eating yummy food, traveling, and spending time with the people (and dog) she loves.
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