I never thought I’d be facing a global pandemic during one of the most crucial and pivotal points of my life, but here we are. When I pictured my “college experience,” I did not think it would turn out like this. I know, I know, I sound like every other person my age right now. We’re all trying to grapple with our years of higher education being practically snatched out of our hands.
Most of my friends’ college experiences have been comparable. They all got sent home in March of 2020, spent the summer at home, went back to school in the fall to settle back into their campuses under new COVID-friendly guidelines, came home for the winter, and now are back at school again. However, my experience has not exactly been that simple.
Like everyone else, I was sent home in March of 2020. However, the month before that, I was touring new schools as a prospective transfer student. After weighing my options, I had made my decision that if I was accepted into the University of Massachusetts, Amherst for the fall 2020 semester, I would be going. A week before I was sent home, I was accepted into the Isenberg School of Management at UMass. I was thrilled, but I was in for an even bigger shock.
A week after I was admitted into UMass, COVID shut the whole world down. Woohoo!! Surprise!
After the COVID-19 pandemic began, I had no idea what to do. It felt like my whole plan had been completely derailed the moment I had finally figured out what I wanted to do. I was panicked. I sought help from my parents, siblings, and friends. They all told me I should follow my true instincts and forget about what was going on in the world. I was told to not let COVID stand in the way of what I wanted. So, with their advice, I took probably the biggest gamble I have taken in my life so far; I made the decision to leave my old school, Western New England University. Normally, this would be an exhilarating change, and a butterfly-inducing experience. This is not the case when there’s a pandemic going on. Everything in my life seemed so subject to change, and it was all out of my control. I was terrified.
After I made the decision, I tried to keep a positive attitude. I made my bed, and I had to sleep in it. I decided that I wanted to live on-campus in the fall of 2020 if I had the option to do so, and it looked like I would be able to as an incoming transfer student. However, they soon announced that only students who had classes on-campus could live on-campus for the fall semester.
With that ruling, I was spending the fall semester at home. All my friends from home were away at school, so I did not get many opportunities for social interaction. I spent my whole semester wondering what life was actually like at a school I’d never even attended in-person before, and I couldn’t help but ask myself if I had even made the right decision in transferring. I truly had no way of knowing if this was the right choice for me.
As my first semester was coming to a close, I was told I had the opportunity to live on-campus in the Spring of 2021. Worried that UMass would change their minds again, I was wary in making my decision to live on-campus. But I decided to take another chance and do it. I found a roommate, and I moved in at the end of January and have happily been residing in Amherst, Massachusetts for the last month and a half.
I finally feel like I am where I belong, but it was a journey to get here. COVID definitely did not make my college experience any less confusing or any less of a mess than it already was, but I am learning to accept it for what it is rather than what I wish it was. I sometimes still have doubts that I made the right choice, and I often wonder what would have happened if I made the decision to stay at my old school where I was very unhappy. But my mom always told me that life is a balance between holding on and letting go. COVID is teaching me every day to let go of whatever preconceived ideas I had for my college experience and to accept and embrace what my life is and what opportunities I get to have.
If I could tell my pre-COVID-world-self anything, I would say this; hang in there, and only worry about things you have control over. COVID is bad, yes, but you have no control over anything except yourself. Make decisions based on what you want, and let nothing stand in your way, not even a virus that’s ripping through the world. Make an effort to try new things, even if those things look a little different right now. Work hard; just because the state of the world is a bit shaky doesn’t mean your work ethic has to be. As for college, online school is tough, but you’re tougher. Keep yourself disciplined. Make a list of things to do each day, and stay motivated, but always set aside at least an hour every day to do something for yourself.
COVID has taught me a lot in the last year, and I am a very changed person compared to who I was even a year ago. I have gotten a lot more powerful as a person, and I fear a lot less because I have encountered so much. A lot of us have had to endure more hardships and changes in the last year than most people endure in 20 years. But it has only made the world stronger. And that, at least, is worth remembering.
But don’t misunderstand me; I hate COVID, and I cannot wait until it dies forever.