For everyone who graduated from high school before me, moving away for college and making new friends was the starting point of a new chapter in their lives and bookends the old chapter at home.
I’ve been going to school there for a year now. I’m a second year student who never got to live on campus.
As I took college classes and haphazardly navigated Zoom university, I frequented the same spots I did in middle school and hung out with my high school friends. I knew I was in a new place in my life, but none of it felt real to me. It was as if these two chapters of my life morphed together.
I knew I was in college, the workload reminded me every single day of that. Though I never fully grasped the scope of transitions happening in my life because I began college from the same bedroom I graduated high school from.
I’ve kept up efforts to truly feel like a UC Santa Cruz student. Surprisingly, I’ve made a handful of friends through remote learning. I’m devoted to my courses and other extracurricular activities. Yet, all of these efforts kept falling short of normalcy.
In the few times that I’ve stepped foot on UCSC’s campus, a strange feeling sits in my stomach. I think, “I can’t believe I go to school here. This is my campus. I am a student here.” I feel like I have to constantly convince myself that this is where I actually go to college. This is the place I’m supposed to be calling home for the next two years.
Sometimes I would think about how my experience would have been different if not for COVID. I wouldn’t have had to make friends in my college classes through a computer screen. I wouldn’t have only met them once in person after months of knowing them. I wouldn’t have completed lectures from the dining room table.
I should’ve had the chance to leave my dorm door open to meet my neighbors, and maybe meet my friends.
It’s a mixed bag. I think about how lucky I was to have an extra year with all of my childhood friends, but how I felt like an important part of my life was taken from me. My older brother and our cousins talk about freshman year of college being their favorite and most exciting, and I can’t help but think I missed something that won’t come back.
As I begin to pack up my childhood bedroom and start the next chapter it feels like life is resuming. All of my feelings have finally caught up to me. I’m excited, nervous, euphoric, and stressed all at once. Everything I thought I would feel last October, I’m feeling now.