None of us know a life without COVID-19 — that is a fact. It was March of my freshman year when we got sent home for an “extended spring break” that turned into the rest of the semester. The pandemic affected the entirety of my college career, along with most people I know, and it truly was something that nobody expected or planned for. Sometimes I look back and wonder what my college experience would have entailed had the pandemic not occurred. Most of the time, I try not to think too hard about it, considering that version of my life doesn’t exist. If I had to really lay it all out, though, this is what I think would’ve happened if COVID-19 wasn’t a factor.
I would’ve gone home for spring break on March 13, 2020, and returned to Amherst a week later. I definitely would’ve struggled in a couple of my classes, because prior to them going online, I was not doing too hot. Nevertheless, I would’ve continued going to the dining hall for every meal, frat parties on the weekends, and people’s dorm rooms to hang out. I would’ve experienced my first spring in Western Mass and prepared for sophomore year by picking new classes and choosing the next dorm to live in.
Sophomore year, I would’ve lived on the fourth floor of Mackimmie with my freshman-year roommate. I would’ve met a whole new set of people and made new friends. I would’ve experienced more tailgates and everything else UMass has to offer in the fall. I would’ve probably joined a club or two and looked into research opportunities for my major. In the spring I would’ve celebrated my 20th birthday with all of my friends, experienced my second Blarney, and started looking for off-campus housing for junior year with a group of friends.
In the fall of junior year, I would’ve moved into a house with a group of girls. I would’ve had advising appointments regarding study abroad opportunities for the spring semester. I would’ve chosen to go to either Italy or Australia — but probably Australia since I went to Italy twice in high school. Being abroad in the spring means I would’ve celebrated my 21st birthday overseas. I would’ve experienced an entirely new lifestyle and taken culture-specific classes. I would’ve made even more new friends during this time.
Here is the reality. I left UMass on that horrible day in March of 2020 and didn’t return for over five months. I finished my spring semester classes online, which did significantly help my grades, but was extremely unproductive nonetheless. The next few months consisted of binge-watching Netflix, countless Zoom calls with friends, family walks around the neighborhood, and parking lot meet-ups.
I was lucky enough to live in Amherst for my sophomore year, despite the fact that classes were still online. I lived in a small apartment with my three friends in turbulent and strange situations. We tried to interact with our other friends and peers while still being aware of COVID-19, which meant making a trip to the Mullins Center twice a week to get tested. Tensions were high, emotions were everywhere, and most of all, we drove each other crazy. But despite this, we formed and maintained a deeper connection. All we could do was sit inside and have long conversations about nothing and everything.
The four of us signed a lease with two of our other friends for a house for junior year. We were ecstatic. Junior year fall was when things really felt like they were “back to normal.” However, going abroad for the spring was pretty much out of the question — I wanted as much time as possible on campus to make up for lost time. Had I gone abroad in the spring, I wouldn’t have experienced my first real spring semester. I wouldn’t have had the internship that launched me into the career path I am now pursuing. I wouldn’t have started seeing a therapist or gone on a spring break trip with all my best friends. I wouldn’t have experienced the Amherst bars as a newly 21-year-old or made my first legal purchase at Liquors 44 on my birthday.
Life is unpredictable — the pandemic proved that to all of us. It’s hard to plan for the future because we never really know what’s coming next. Despite the hardships that were faced as a result of COVID, I am extremely grateful for the life I live and couldn’t imagine it any other way now.