On the night of Oct. 1, I made a new friend. There was precious little that drew us to one another — not taste in music, nor hair color, or even species. 

No, what kindled the bond between me and the desert shrew I discovered in my sink was a shared love of paella. Huddled up in the drain, my new acquaintance was nibbling away at leftover bits of the Spanish delicacy with reckless abandon. I was so overcome with excitement that I nearly cried. The 1st of October also marked the 37th day of my “semester abroad” (I have to call it something optimistic… don’t judge me).

I’m sure that nobody reading this (hi, by the way!) needs to be reminded how unprecedented and unnerving the past month has been. Adjusting to school away from school has thrown many UR students for a loop. For a couple weeks of September, I went about gathering interviews and anecdotes from other students taking a “semester abroad.” For those of us tuning in to a familiar campus from our computer screens, the distance can be a real hindrance. Time changes, disparate access to resources, and (unfortunately) much more, all contribute to the existing stressors that are known to each and every one of us. But at the very least, we are familiar with the life that we are temporarily disconnected from. The members of the class of 2024 who have yet to fully experience UR life, however, cannot say the same.

The most impactful responses I got were from the new batch of first-years. They’re tuning in to an entirely new academic environment, and the online version of college is all that they know. Their introduction to college life has felt anticlimactic: “From orientation to class registration, I did not have the feeling that I am already a college student,” says first-year student, Angela Pan. 

From first-year, Adrija Bhattacharjee, “I believe it was when I got the email saying I should reserve my spot to get […] a Class of 2024 shirt when the ‘fomo’ really hit me, and I just started crying. I know it’s just a T-shirt and I’ll get more chances in the future, but I always wonder how it would be if I got a chance to live through some of my experiences on campus right now.”  

I was also pleasantly surprised by the refreshing optimism many of my lovely correspondents displayed. Many reported having formed meaningful relationships despite the distance. From Medha Pan, in Aurora, Colorado: “I am happy that my days end early and I am able to spend more time […] virtually connecting with UR friends through social media platforms.And from Melody Yathida Anankul in Thailand “although I don’t get to meet a lot of people or make that many new friends, I am still able to connect with them through social media.” 

Some are even “working on getting [their] driver’s license,” like first-year Sua Kim or  “how to do little jumps on [their] skateboard,” like CT’s very own social media editor, Mattie Martin-Olenski.  

Nothing I received came close to the grandeur of the shrew in my sink, but perhaps the next Tony Hawk or Nascar legend could one day rival it. Despite my jest, I find genuine comfort in hearing of these little escapades. When the average day consists of the same walls and ceiling as the last, the smallest occurrence can feel like the most important of events. With that said, to all the other remote students out there, I sincerely hope that a shrew finds its way into your sink sometime soon. 

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