Starting as a first year at any college is infamously nerve-wracking and anxiety-provoking. With meeting new friends, learning your way around campus, and living away from home for the first time, it can be a daunting task. Throw a global pandemic into the mix and you are sure to be stressed out. Coming into college as a first year in 2020, I knew there would be a lot of especially new challenges with meeting people and also staying safe. But I have to say, not all of it was bad. In fact, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Sure, I struggled with normal things like missing my mom’s hugs or desperately wanting to use my own shower, but the self-development and independence I gained made all the struggling worthwhile.
The most important thing I learned and will keep learning throughout my years in college is the idea of complete independence. It was a real wake up call for me when I was finally able to dictate when I eat, when I go to bed, and practically everything I do every day. My day is completely mine and no one is there right next to me reminding me to eat 3 meals a day or work on a paper that I have due. I have, thankfully, excelled at being able to do all of this for myself, but I know many people that are the latter and really struggle with this transition which is also completely okay.
Growing up with a sibling, I was always used to having someone around to hang out with. But living in the same room as someone is a completely different story. I went from living in my own space for 18 years to being forced into a small dorm room with someone I had met over Facebook months prior. It has worked out incredibly in my favor that I get along with my roommate where we are overall very similar, whether academically or personality-wise. Of course, it was awkward at the beginning where we didn’t know if we should say good night to each other but over time, I’ve grown to realize it’s weirder to live in the room without her than with her.
Coming to college knowing absolutely no one and being socially anxious was my biggest fear but one that was quickly squashed when I met and became friends with the girls on my floor the first night. I was quick to realize that everyone is in the same boat of knowing no one and they are willing to get to know new people. This was relieving to see coming from a very cliquey high school environment. Plenty of people in my major were also very open to reaching out to get dinner and discuss classes to share our struggles. With COVID, going out and making more friends was very limited, but it was not impossible. I would have found this year so much more unbearable if I wasn’t able to make the friends that I did to use as an outlet for fun.
“Zoom University” was the biggest struggle that I think every college student has had to deal with between this entire year and the second semester of last year. Having most of my classes online made them feel as if they were optional and that I didn’t have to pay attention. I would sign onto zoom and would soon start doing something else or go on my phone which always turns out to be a problem when it comes time for tests. I am extremely appreciative of the resources that my professors, especially the completely remote professors, provide, however, it has been difficult for myself and my peers to pay attention and get everything out of the class that we should. Being an occupational therapy major, I feel as if I have missed an impressionable time being online where we would normally be doing more active learning. I am a hands-on learner and I just think that I have lost out on a lot of important knowledge being online. I am really anticipating next semester to be more in-person along with the years following and I hope high school seniors now get a relatively normal first year of college.
In retrospect, my first-year experience may be one of the more fortunate ones. This doesn’t mean you can’t try to make the most of every situation to get the most out of the short amount of time we have here. I may only be finishing my first year here, but boy was that year quick. I am fortunate enough to be here for 5 years instead of 4 which will give me plenty of time to grow as a person, a student, and a professional.