Ahh … freshman year: the first and, undoubtedly, most anticipated year of the college experience. Naturally, freshman year is about exploring campus, meeting new people and getting to know your roommates, taking college classes and adjusting to a new independent life.
And yet, being a freshman last year as the pandemic continued was drastically different than what we had expected of a traditional first year. Experiences vary from each school and each individual, but while some students may have been pleased with it so far, others may have found it disappointing, difficult and draining.
For me, like many others, I spent my freshman year online and felt like I was robbed of a year of what I should have experienced. I felt like I was stagnating — I felt no real and tangible connection to Boston University other than classes and club meetings that took place on Zoom, the few friends I had made and the one time I visited campus a few years ago.
On top of that, many international students — including myself — experienced drastic time differences attending class online, like having a class at 4 a.m. or an exam at 6 a.m.. The gaping time difference of 11 hours made my freshman year experience even more demanding, creating a weird limbo-like space in my life.
For context, I spent my whole freshman year at home in Jakarta, Indonesia, which unlike the United States, has stricter COVID-19 restrictions in place such as requiring mask wearing in all settings regardless of vaccination status while in the United States mask mandates vary from state to state.
In my experience, it’s more socially acceptable in Indonesia than in the United States to ask someone to get tested before a meet-up, whether it be a coffee date, dinner or a “hang out.”
It’s soul-crushing to see others living their lives when you can’t, whether you’re physically unable to because of COVID-19 restrictions or because you simply feel uncomfortable.
Regardless of whether a student studied remotely at home, abroad or on campus in the United States, I’m sure most of us former freshmen are now desperately searching for time and experiences we may never get back. But while we can’t go back in time and prevent the grief the pandemic has caused, ruminating on lost time may only lead to more lost experiences.
Moreover, the shared experience of attending college during a pandemic gave us a unique shared experience as college students. The transition to in-person classes and campus is difficult, but it’s also the first step in re-creating a thriving college community and social life.
Last year was very difficult and tiring –– both mentally and physically. But what I’ve learned from it is that good things come to those who wait. Eventually, I felt better when I was able to finalize my flight plans to the United States and choose my move-in date to BU. Now, I find it exhilarating to finally be on campus, meet new people and make real connections. Most importantly, I’m very lucky to be living in a suite in Stuvi2 with seven other girls, which is much more helpful when it comes to adjusting back.
This past week on campus involved a few hectic moments of getting lost and being dazed and confused. Seeing that I only had my orientation online rather than in person and have never lived on campus, I had a few hiccups, going to the School of Theology thinking it was the College of Arts and Sciences Building and mistakenly thinking convenience points and dining points were the same.
But I’m also finding my footing. I recently learned how to use the printers at BU –– which, I have to say, is surprisingly easy to do –– and discovered how to very conveniently order food through Grubhub at the George Sherman Union and other BU dining options ahead of time.
This past week has made me feel as if I was placed under a magnifying glass. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself, considering I’m living in an upperclassmen dorm with no freshmen. But would a sophomore who did not transfer, but has never been to campus, be considered a sort of freshman too?
Before leaving for college, my aunt always told me, “there are many ways to go to Rome.” Just like the common phrase, “all roads lead to Rome,” my aunt’s advice reminded me there are various ways to achieve a goal or desired outcome, even if it’s not how we expected it to be.
If anyone is experiencing something just as similar, know you are not alone. And if you see me walking down Commonwealth Ave or at the GSU, don’t be afraid to give a quick hello.