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An Open Letter to College Sophomores (Like Me)

Dear Sophomores,

This summer, I moved into my own place out of my parent’s home. Not exactly on campus, but close by. A real upgrade from the dorms last year, I’ll say. Throughout this process of change in my life, there’s been a strange atmosphere in the air, which I can confidently say has something to do with the fact that, as a student who entered undergrad in 2020, I’ve never been to “real” college.

I lived in student housing last year, sure. But for two semesters, my entire courseload was online, through Zoom, or even more bizarre through a completely remote plan of learning. I never went to orientation; I still have never once stepped foot in a lecture hall on my campus. Most of my friends (who I love so dearly, don’t get me wrong) I know from my high school days or connections I made through those friends because I never really got too many chances to go out there and meet new people amidst social distancing and in-person events just not occurring.

Going into my second year of undergrad, now, where traditionally I may be expected to have laid down my roots and feel proud calling myself a community member at my school, feels so abstract when my experience at college so far has been something never seen before. Never seen by anyone in my generation, or those that came before us, even. You, my fellow sophomore, and I are rewriting the definition of the college student experience.

It sounds exciting, enthralling to be a pioneer in this strange new world that everyone else seems to just be getting used to. College, though, is the kind of period in one’s life where everything else is changing so fast and without stop. I don’t want to speak for all of us, but sometimes I find myself wondering what my life would look like now had this pandemic never occurred and turned everything upside down. All of our expectations, our routines. Our lives and our dreams, in many ways.

This all isn’t to say that I’m unhappy with the way some things have turned out. I still keep close contact with my best friends from my childhood and high school, which I was warned throughout my later teenage years that I would lose when I moved away to college and started meeting new people. Of course, I did, as it comes with moving to any new place. But my high school friends are having effectively the same experience I am—having never really made that mental split between high school and college. High school didn’t end with a bang, huge graduation and festivities to celebrate our accomplishments, to reinforce the idea again in our heads that high school is over and our real lives are just beginning. No, instead, high school ended for all of us as a fizzling out, a slow transition from normal to abnormal to normalized to how our lives are now. All throughout, there was no time to truly realize the fact that it’s time to grow up. 

In other words, I wish it could have just been normal. But what really is normal, anyway?


Emily, Class of 2024

Emily Richardson is a psychology and women's studies student at Virginia Commonwealth University and HCVCU's Senior Editor for Fall 2021. She has contributed to a number of independent publications and has a passion for music, writing, and social issues.
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