Ever since I was a child, I always heard the phrase, “three is the magic number.” When you have three of something, you understand it. When you reach the third level of something, you start to become more advanced. To me, the number three is about familiarity and feels established. However, I am about to go into my third year of college, and I feel none of those things. The majority of my college experience has been virtual thanks to COVID, and I can’t wrap my mind around becoming an upperclassman when I feel like I’ll be starting all over again come this Fall quarter.
There is a feeling of anxiety specific to being a part of the Class of 2023. It stems from having a disconnect from campus life. In addition, it feels like we are often overlooked by everyone, including our own school’s administration. Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand why we heavily sympathized with the class of 2020 because they got their graduation taken away; I understand why we feel for the class of 2021 because they got their entire senior year taken away, and I understand why we are considerate of the class of 2024 because they started their college experience completely online. However, I feel like the anxieties and struggles of the class of 2023 are invalidated. I’m incredibly grateful that I had at least two quarters on UCLA’s campus, but in all honesty, two quarters was not enough to finalize a solid foundation. Freshman year was supposed to be about meeting new people, bouncing around different clubs and extracurriculars, and figuring out what you like. Right when I was finally starting to establish a steady routine and idea of college life, it was all stripped away from me. When I finally return for Fall, I’ll have to take the crumbles of the foundation I had and find a way to glue them back together.
We never got to experience springtime on campus and have events such as watching Spring Sing live or even moving out of our dorm and getting a true goodbye from our roommates. I think this aspect is what hurts the most about not being prioritized for housing. When we believed some people would have housing last year, we weren’t prioritized because freshman and third years who “needed to be on campus” were put ahead of us. Now that we are third years who will “need to be on campus,” we are put in the back of the line again as rising second years, new freshman, and transfers are considered before us. Part of me gets it. Those groups haven’t had any quarters on campus, while I have had at least two. However, the other part of me is hurt that UCLA hasn’t offered a more sincere apology or concern towards my class. Telling me that I’ll be “connected to resources” if I don’t receive housing doesn’t make me feel any better. My heart would probably hurt less if UCLA wrote a message acknowledging that they’ve continually broken promises granted to us, and they know it’s not fair. That message wouldn’t change the situation, but at least it would feel that the school my family pays tuition for me to attend acknowledges and sees me and people like me. We were teased with an on-campus experience, and it can make us feel sad to dwell on the idea we may never get something like that back.
My anxiety also stems from having to make new friends again. A lot of the people I befriended last year graduated or are about to graduate. I only have a few friends within my year, and I am one of the many people who struggled to make friends via Zoom socials. My diminished network of friends brings fears of loneliness and other social anxieties. It’s surreal because it feels that such a short time ago, I was a first-year student hanging out with third years in classes and clubs, not only becoming their friend but also picking their brain about UCLA. Now, I’m about to be the third year that first years befriend and try to pick my brain. All I know is I definitely will not have the same level of knowledge that my third-year peers had when I was a freshman. I guess I’ll be able to bond with the first years by learning things with them. We’ll be in a boat more similar than they think.
Whenever I talked to a UCLA counselor or therapist about my academic anxieties, they would tell me “relax, you’re a first year. It’s not like you’re a third year.” Well, I’m about to be a third year, and it feels like the last 14 months were just an extension of my first year. My second year was supposed to be that bridge between being a novice and having something established, but now I’m diving into my third year with half a bridge. I feel that I’m about to fall into dangerous water at the end of this bridge, but instead of it being shark-infested, it’s infested with harder classes and way more expectations.
Overall, I feel that this next year, I have to redo part of what I did my first year, but now time is not on my side. When thinking about what next year entails, it’s easy for me and the class of 2023 to fall down a rabbit hole. I find the best way to cope with it is to remember that we are not alone, and there are thousands of people within and outside of UCLA that are in the same boat as us. Also, remember the progress we did make this year whether it was joining a new club, taking our first upper div, or even exploring a new subject.
Three can still be a magic number, but it’s time that I reinvent the definition of what it means. Rather than 3 meaning advancement and familiarity, it has to mean rebuilding and making the best of the situation. My third year can still be a golden year, but it has to start with a change in mindset. This is easier said than done and something that I will definitely have to practice, but it’s possible. We also have to remember to be grateful for the little things, like our two “normal” quarters or the fact that we go to the number one public university. Therefore, when I feel anxiety over a housing email or an enrollment outline, I have to remember, take one day at a time, and make the best of the two years I have left. I can really, really hope for a dorm, and I can hope that the Class of 2023 receives some acknowledgment, but I need to focus the energy on things I can control. To my fellow peers of 2023, not everyone sees us, but we see each other. Let’s rely on one another and build each other up, so three can still be a magic number because sometimes, the third time’s a charm.