It was an early morning in April 2020 when I opened up my computer to a red, confetti-covered email from Boston University accepting me into the communications program for that fall. But there was a catch — would we even be able to go to college like we’d always imagined in high school? Or would COVID-19 take our very first semester away from us?
The whole summer leading up to the fall semester was full of anticipation and anxiety for me — and I’m sure for many others as well. Almost every day, a new school would announce that its fall classes would be virtual. Every day, it looked more and more like BU would do the same.
But BU pulled through for all of us freshmen. We made it to campus in the midst of a national pandemic and our experience was unlike any other.
While many people’s biggest fear going into the school year was probably COVID-19, the most intimidating thing of all to me was college social life.
In my small, private high school, I was an athlete. I rarely did anything except go to practice and competitions, and hang out with a small group of friends that I had been close with since middle school. There were less than 70 kids in my grade. So after I decided that I would attend college at BU, I knew I would have to learn how to decipher the social scene at a big school.
I was terrified of meeting new people. What scared me most was that BU is so big, and if I didn’t put myself out there, I would have no friends. That sounds depressing, but that’s how life works — it’s not like random people are going to make an effort to know you if you don’t do the same.
When I arrived at college, there were restrictions upon restrictions due to the coronavirus. We weren’t allowed to be in a room with more than a certain number of people, we couldn’t eat in the dining hall, we were always required to be masked, and more. It made it hard for everyone to meet new people and make friends, and that’s when I realized that it would, ironically, be COVID-19 that would save the day and slowly help me integrate into my new social life.
COVID-19 made it so that everybody was in the same situation. It made you have to be selective with the people you surrounded yourself with. You had to evaluate whether every social interaction was worth the possibility of getting sick and being in quarantine for two weeks. Sure, people still went out, partied and met hundreds of new people, but it made me feel okay with sitting in my dorm room with my roommate and the girl from down the hall — who both turned out to be my best friends — and ordering takeout on a Friday night. After all, the majority of students were being careful and hanging out in their dorms, too. The friendships I made were so much more special and important because of that.
In February 2021, I decided to rush — something I wouldn’t have done if the entire process wasn’t virtual which made it less intimidating. As a result of rushing and joining a sorority, I met so many new girls and became friends because they too had a similar mindset about making friends.
Near the end of my freshman year, I ended up getting COVID-19 and had to stay in quarantine dorms for two weeks — but surprisingly enough, it was a great experience for me. I was able to use my quarantine time to focus on myself and my schoolwork. I read, painted, journaled and spent time with myself. To be honest, every once in a while now, I find myself missing the solidarity of the COVID-19 dorms and the peacefulness that came with it.
At first, I will admit I was a little overwhelmed with everything going on around me, but it made me feel better knowing the pandemic was beginning to ease as everyone was getting vaccinated and as socialization on campus began to pick up.
The point is, COVID-19 had a lot of ups and downs when it came to going to college in the midst of it, but it really did help integrate me into a new life in Boston. Although we didn’t get the typical freshman year experience, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.