Reflections on an Abnormal Sophomore Year

Last fall, I wrote an article titled “5 Ways to Adjust to a Virtual Fall Semester”, wherein I discussed adjusting to a very different style of college and learning than any student had experienced before. As I prepare to enter my fifth semester at UVM, I have done a lot of self-reflecting as to what I have experienced both academically and personally in the past ten months. This year has been one of the hardest of my life, and I feel like the pandemic has just created a sense of hopelessness for a lot of students. In my reflections, I have focused on what brought me joy, what I learned about both academics and myself, and how I learned to take life a day at a time. Hopefully, some of my realizations help others who feel the same way, after all we are all in this together. 

As I prepare for my third year of college, I have spent a lot of time figuring out what brings me joy and how to go about dropping the parts of my life that drain me either emotionally or socially. 

I have likely previously mentioned that I am a DJ at WRUV, UVM’s campus radio station. This past year, I found myself spending more and more time in the station. Taking online classes in the common room, checking out our vinyl collection, throwing myself into my work there, and eventually being elected Station Manager. I found a place to shut out all of the chaos of academia and my family and instead was able to grow during this tough year. It’s important to take the time to find what makes you happy and find an outlet, especially now, when the pandemic has alienated a lot of us from our friends and peers. My first reflection is to find a place to shut all of that out, even if it is just for a little while, and take the time to focus on what brings you happiness. It has become extremely important to me to find a space to block out the negative energy of the world around me, and if you are struggling right now, take the time to do so as well. The world will still be there when you’re done taking a break, believe me.

The second reflection of the past year was centered around my schoolwork. I had my future planned to a T when I entered UVM and had already planned out a senior thesis that I had yet to even propose to an advisor. A couple of weeks ago, those plans changed, and I had to rearrange my ideas into something else that would still bring me joy and reflect on my time as a student at UVM. As of the writing of this article, I still have no idea what my thesis will end up looking like, and that is okay. I won’t lie to you, I cried when I heard that my future would not be the perfect fairytale I had conjured in my head, and when I realized I would have to change. I raved about the ability to be flexible with what happened this year in my article last fall, and I did the exact opposite of that. 

Academically, this year has been tough for everyone, and while it is important to be flexible, something else I reflected on a lot this spring was to learn something, however small, in every experience you have. So yes, maybe my thesis is not going to be perfect, or I had a class this spring that I didn’t particularly enjoy, but every experience can teach you something, even if it is a better way to format a college-level research paper. 

I also learned that sometimes you have to take a break from academics and breathe for a second. I was working 16 hours a week this fall and spring with a full academic and extracurricular schedule. When finals week came, I took a second to go drive and see what I could find to bring me inspiration for the end of the semester. I took myself on a road trip, exploring the Champlain Islands, and felt like I was the main character in an indie film for a day. It’s the small things sometimes that can bring you the most joy, whether it be just relaxing with friends, taking time to go hammock in the woods, or driving off to somewhere new, take a second to breathe. To quote Ferris Bueller, “life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”. I’m going to take these last couple of days at UVM this spring as an opportunity to look around and see how far I’ve come before summer shows up and whisks me away into another whirlpool of adventure.