Going Away to College During a Pandemic

At 18 years old, moving to a new location where you will be attending a new school with new people can be intimidating, but try doing it in the middle of a pandemic. Millions of students across the United States enrolled in their first year of college just recently. According to EconFact.org, almost 44% of college students attend a school that is at least an hour’s drive away from their home. In 2016, almost 13% of first-year college students attended a four-year college that was within 50-100 miles from their home. Assuming that this percentage has not drastically changed in the past four years, hundreds of thousands of first-time college students have recently enrolled in an out-of-state college or university during these unprecedented times. While a good fraction of these students is probably completing classes at home through an online platform, another fraction of them have moved away from their friends and families and are now facing the challenge of finding a place for themselves in a new environment during the era of social distancing and mask wearing. I am one of them. 

Alright, some background information: I am originally from Louisiana, born and raised. During high school, I moved to the Denver metropolitan area in Colorado. Last year, I visited Louisiana Tech University and fell in love. While LTU (Louisiana Tech University) is located in the same state I grew up in, I still didn’t know anyone going to LTU, and it is located in a completely different part of Louisiana than where I used to live.  Over the past year, I have been romanticizing moving to LTU, living in the dorms, rushing a sorority, making new friends, going to parties, and the list goes on. Then the pandemic happened. 

I will admit, these past few weeks haven’t been as lonely as I thought they would be. Although, it is a completely different picture than what I once had in mind. We, as college students, obviously aren’t able to attend big gatherings or parties, but there have been certain social events and activities I’ve been able to participate in. For instance, I was able to rush, but the process was completely virtual. I have been able to make new friends with safety precautions in place that I could have never predicted last year. I don’t want anyone thinking that I’m complaining about these things, as I know people have bigger problems during the pandemic and I am very fortunate and grateful to even be physically present on campus living in a dorm, but let’s be real. The high school class of 2020 never imagined that this would be how their freshman year of college would pan out. 

However, I do think that utilizing this time and making the best out of this situation is crucial. There are a lot of predictions about how, when, or even if the pandemic will end. The truth is that we don’t know the answers to any of these questions. No one has a crystal ball. For me, this truth is unsettling. Uncertainty does not sit well with me. As hard as it is, I try to take things one day at a time. 

My advice: get out of your dorm or wherever you are living. Go to the quad, the library, a nearby park, a local coffee shop, or anywhere with people (while socially distancing, of course). Try and make new friends. I know it’s easier said than done. If you can’t physically meet people, look out for emails from your university about virtual college clubs and activities. I’ve received countless of those already, and I’m sure other college kids did, too. It may not be ideal, but meeting people online and socializing through zoom is better than nothing. Hopefully, you will be able to meet your news friends in person in the next few semesters. Take this time to focus on your classes, work out, or any hobbies that you enjoy. I mean, seriously, when are we ever going to have this amount of free time again? Even though I don’t necessarily enjoy going on runs or studying for long periods of time, I have found I have more opportunities to do these things during the pandemic. 

To all of my first-year college students who have recently moved to a new city, state, or even country, I wish you luck. I know it’s hard, but we can get through this. Stay safe, healthy, and happy, and let’s hope that things get better in the upcoming school years.