Before the pandemic, if you had asked me to imagine what it would be like to come back to campus as a sophomore, I would have guessed that it would feel like I was coming back home to a campus that I had explored and made memories on. The first day of classes wouldn’t be a big deal, because I would have already spent two semesters learning and meeting new people in the classroom.
However, as I arrived on campus for my second semester, I still felt as though I was arriving at college for the first time. Although I had been on campus last semester, all my classes were online and there weren’t many in-person events. I ended up spending most of my time in my dorm room or going for walks on the quad before having to get on another Zoom call.
There were so many common college experiences that I had never encountered before. Something as simple as sitting down and eating in the dining hall was new to me. Last year, we only used disposable cartons to get our food and leave to eat in our dorms. But now I was surrounded by tables full of people using real plates and silverware instead of plastic forks and knives. It felt strange to get my own food instead of having someone serve it to me. After my roommate and I finished eating, we learned where the conveyor belt for used dishes was for the first time.
After adjusting to the dining halls over the weekend, it was finally Monday and time for my first class. I hadn’t been in a classroom in a year and a half and was experiencing the worries that many freshmen encounter: what if I can’t find the classroom? What if I go to the wrong class? I had never been in a college classroom before and wasn’t sure how it would go. Although I quickly adjusted to being back in a classroom, I still felt like a second-year freshman. After watching the new students exploring campus in their orientation groups—something I had never had the chance to experience—I was starting to think they may be even more accustomed to being at college than I was.
I know I am not alone in how I feel. Many of my friends have also expressed their worries about classes and meeting new people after spending the previous semester in their dorms most of the time. Although no other class has had to feel like this going into their sophomore year, I have found that our unexpected circumstances have brought the sophomore class closer together. We have all had to deal with the impacts of the pandemic on our college experience, and we know that we are not alone.
After being here for nearly two weeks now, I feel much more used to being on campus and going to classes. There are so many common college experiences that I will never take for granted after knowing what it’s like to not have them. I am grateful that there are many more events for students this semester than there were last year, and I hope that these opportunities can continue for the rest of the semester.