Growing up, college was always the end goal for me, the finish line at the end of the race. I had imagined how my first year would go. Granted, I didn’t know where I was going to school until April of this past year, but nevertheless, I knew that my freshman year of college would be one for the books. Well, I was right. This year is certainly one that will go down in history, just not in the way I expected.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected high school seniors across the world and left many of us feeling devastated. After the cancellation of long-awaited sports seasons, proms and traditional graduations we saw our freshman year of college in the fall as the light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, as the summer wore on it became clear that back to school would be far from normal this year. Many universities announced that instead of traditional face to face classes they would be holding classes online or have a combination of online and face to face classes in order to maintain safety precautions. This is not what students had in mind for their first semester of freshman year and caused many to reconsider living on campus and even attending college at all.
As a freshman at Florida State University, I entered the school year with many questions and anxieties about my first semester. In addition to the normal worries of will I like my classes? Will I be able to make friends? How will I survive living in a dorm with a roommate I’ve never met before? I had to add on: What will I do if I test positive for the coronavirus? How do I safely hang out with people? Is the sore throat I had this morning because I slept with my mouth open or because I have the coronavirus? How often should I get tested for COVID-19? And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
I’ve been on campus for about a month now, and I’m still adjusting to this new normal. I have only one in-person class that meets once a week; while the rest of them are done online over zoom. Essentially anytime I’m in public or inside a building (except for in my dorm room), I’m supposed to have a mask on. The dining halls are open but they don’t allow for inside seating, which means that finding opportunities to spontaneously sit with people I don’t know are few and far between. This leads to the unique challenge of making friends. It’s a complicated dance of putting myself out there and staying back and being safe because I don’t know where these people have been or who they’ve interacted with. What if they’ve come in contact with someone who’s tested positive for COVID-19?
While I’m certain that the rest of the semester will continue to present new challenges, these are some things I’ve learned so far:
1. Go To Class and Actually Pay Attention.
Go to class and actually pay attention. Now more than ever, this is important due to the distance put between us and the instructors. I’ve found myself mindlessly scrolling through social media as my professor talks from my screen. These are the times I have to remind myself that I am here to learn and that I am paying to learn, not to scroll on my phone.
2. Don’t Eat Junk Food for More Than Three Meals in a Row.
Don’t eat junk food for more than 3 meals in a row. Trust me on this one, you will start to feel sick and disgusting. Next time you’re in the dining hall grab a piece of fruit or a salad. Try to keep it somewhat balanced.
3. Make Friends, but Be Safe About It.
Make friends, but be safe about it. Going to a house party right now is definitely not a good idea. In fact, it’s downright irresponsible. But going on a walk outside or even simply having dinner together can be a great way to build friendships while staying safe.
4. For Now, Keep Your Circle Small.
For now, keep your circle small. The fewer people you are in close contact with the less likely you are to contract COVID-19. Yes, you may not leave for Thanksgiving with a boatload of friends, but you might leave with a few great ones.
5. Most Importantly, If You Get COVID-19 It’s Not the End of the World.
Most importantly, if you get COVID-19 it’s not the end of the world. You will go into isolation for two weeks or so and yes it will probably be lonely and boring, but it will be okay. Stay calm and do what’s right. Facetime those friends I mentioned earlier and maybe even some old ones to catch up.
Even though this is not at all what I thought my freshman year would look like, I still have hope. This month has been a reminder that we can adapt, we can learn, and we can overcome, but only if we do this together.