When the COVID-19 pandemic hit my hometown of Boulder, Colo., I was a senior in high school. Prior to March 12, 2020, my mind was occupied with the upcoming end-of-year events that celebrated the culmination of my primary education. Then, the whole world changed. I came to the realization that everything I had been dreaming of since the beginning of high school was slipping away. Like so many others, I viscerally felt the loss of normality.
My world once again shifted when I began my first year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Sept. of 2020. Beginning college in an online environment — coupled with the fact that I lived in an apartment rather than the dorms — was a unique situation. In an effort to establish a separation between home and school, I eventually settled into a routine of going to the gym, participating in classes from my apartment and doing homework at Memorial Union. All things considered, I did have a great experience my first year here, but I had no idea what I was missing out on.
Now, I am a month into my sophomore year and already, things are vastly different. Given that we have a 93% vaccination rate on campus, the prevalence of COVID-19 has seemingly decreased and things have started to feel “normal” again. But what does normal even look like?
We are living in a different world than we were before the pandemic started, and now it feels as if we are all desperately trying to make up for the year that we “lost.” Events are returning in full force, classes are in person and I am once again finding myself with a full schedule. I know that I am not alone in struggling with how to balance it all.
Simultaneously, I feel as if I am going through a grief process with the recognition that there was so much that I missed last year as a freshman, such as making “floor friends” in the dorms, meeting people in classes, Welcome Week events and more. Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly happy that the current freshmen have the opportunity to experience it all, but I can’t help but feel a stab of jealousy about how my transition to college was vastly different from theirs.
While I am a sophomore, I am no wiser than any of the new freshmen, as I too am experiencing my first taste of “real college.” It is a hard situation to navigate, and many of my peers are in the same boat. However, in the long run, my classmates and I will be stronger for the adversity we have faced — from losing our senior prom and graduation to now being “do-over” freshmen in a newly-vaccinated world. More than anything though, I am simply grateful for the opportunity to be here.