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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCD chapter.

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic was the start of a new normal for many college students. Long gone were the walks and bike rides to and from classes, the loud and lively atmosphere of the dining halls, and the quiet study sessions at the library. The new normal was more than Zoom classes online. For most students, it was a complete change of environment as the majority decision or was to move back home. 

Childhood bedrooms became campuses and lecture halls. The chatter of students on the quad and hallways became the conversations of siblings and parents heard through thin walls. 

What I thought would be a couple of weeks-long staycation at home turned into a year and a half of feeling hopeless and trapped in my own safe space. The endless Zoom class meetings and lack of in-person social interaction with people other than family members weighed me down. While I kept in contact with friends over FaceTime sessions, phone calls, and text messages, it did not compare to our pre-pandemic hang-outs. 

There was a point in the pandemic where my emotional stability seemed to worsen every passing day. A division between my personal and academic life became impossible while living in the confines of my home and bedroom. Life became a repetitive and tiring cycle of waking up, doing schoolwork, eating, and repeating. 

Eventually, the only silver lining of living at home was my family. My mom, dad, and sister became my biggest support group during the pandemic. To make my online school experience at home the most optimal, they prioritized my comfort over their own. Whenever I had Zoom classes, tests, and big assignments, they did their best to create a studious environment for me. They would make a phone call outside or turn the TV off in the living room. Their care extended beyond facilitating academic life. My parents made a ritual of popping into my room to bring me snacks to check up on me, or simply, to talk. 

In the middle of the anxiety and trashiness of the pandemic, I found comfort in the people that make up home. I came to appreciate the small moments with my family, from dinners to grocery runs to late-night talks. As an adult, I found myself emotionally relying on my parents in the one year more than I had relied on them during high school.

When UC Davis announced their plan to return for in-person classes, I was exalted. Getting away from the endless cycle of bed-to-desk routine, from countless days spent cooped up inside my room with nowhere to go, and the monotony of Zoom university was everything I wanted.

Now that I am away from Zoom classrooms and the confines of my home bedroom, everything I yearned for a whole year, I cannot help but feel a new kind of sadness overtake me. I was so excited about a return to a closer version of the pre-pandemic world. However, I did not stop to think about how everything would change the new normal I had adopted.

I never expected my feelings of sadness over missing my family and home to overshadow my excitement for a fresh start. While the pandemic took away from me in so many ways, I cannot help but feel happy it also gave me a deeper appreciation of the people I love.

Maria Martinez Castro is a third-year at UC Davis majoring in English with a minor in Professional Writing. She enjoys going on road trips with friends, reading, writing, roller skating, and dancing in her free time. Maria hopes to pursue a career in journalism after graduation and create meaningful change in the field of social justice with her writing.