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After being cheated out of half of my freshman year and experiencing what seemed like the longest year of my life, I couldn’t wait to get back on campus in the fall. Unfortunately, my sophomore year has been the furthest thing from normalcy possible. So far, it has consisted of Zoom classes, very limited social gatherings and what seems like a million covid tests. To add to this long list of the new normal, student organizations were forced to become completely virtual.

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Thankfully, I had joined one club prior to the pandemic, so I at least got a taste of what they were supposed to be like. Student organizations are obviously one of the easiest and best ways to meet new people and make long lasting connections on campus, but it’s just not the same when you have to do it virtually. The worst part is that after spending an entire day staring at your laptop, you have to join yet another Zoom meeting just to have some sort of social interaction. You know it’s really bad when even what is supposed to be one of the best parts of college becomes mentally and physically draining. Even though this obviously isn’t ideal, I wasn’t going to let a screen stand in my way of making new friends, so I went out on a limb and joined a couple of more clubs. They ended up exceeding my expectations and I truly loved every second of them. More importantly, I met tons of new people who share similar interests with me. 

Despite all of these new friendships, it was initially really hard for me to step out of my comfort zone and become comfortable enough with people in a virtual setting. Throughout the entire pandemic, participating in virtual classes has been a struggle for me. I tend to get extremely anxious and fear accidentally interrupting someone or even worse, being unmuted. This fear of speaking up in class has progressively transferred over to my virtual club meetings and socials, as well. I know this is a common problem among college students, but I just wish that I wasn’t one of them, because it’s not an accurate reflection of my personality. Aside from this drawback, I felt like I actually knew these people, except one thing was still off: I only knew who they were and what they looked like from the shoulders up!

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Now this isn’t that big of a deal until you swear that you see them walking around campus, but you can’t actually tell if it’s them or not. This is extremely difficult when they aren’t exactly how you imagined them, or they look nothing like their Instagram profile. I’ve become really skilled at recognizing familiar faces under a mask, but it’s different when you’ve only seen them on Zoom. As someone who has recently become introverted in new social situations thanks to the excessive amount of time spent in quarantine, I will literally refuse to introduce myself on the off chance that it won’t be who I actually think it is, which is totally unfair because I never used to be like this.

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Needless to say, I am more than excited to (hopefully!) be able to have in person club meetings next year. Not only will it save me from the unnecessary stress, but it will allow me to return to the confident and outgoing person that I was before the pandemic hit. Nothing makes me happier than knowing that returning to a state of normalcy and being able to officially meet everyone who I currently only know through a little square on my screen is in the near future.

Karli Schmitz

Wisconsin '23

Karli is currently a junior at the University of Wisconsin Madison majoring in Strategic Communication, with certificates in Digital Studies and Sports Communication. She is very passionate about health and fitness, so you can either find her at the gym or in the kitchen whipping up new recipes!
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