I first knew that COVID-19 would define my time in college in an iZone conference room, of all places. Ironically, in a spot that was supposed to be a hub of electrifying inspiration, I received the most depressing, unexciting news of all. Called to a meeting with the two professors and a dozen other students with whom I would be going to Italy on a Classics department trip, I learned that due to the COVID-19 situation in Italy, we would not be able to go on the trip over spring break as planned. I called my dad as I left the meeting, letting him know that I would be coming home over spring break, already worried that we would not be able to return to campus.
When I returned for my sophomore year, everything was different. No guests in our dorms, Zoom classes, eating alone. The physical distance required for public safety resulted in social distance as well. I grew apart from some friends; I didn’t grow closer with others. While I was able to meet some new people, my sophomore year was considerably more socially conservative than I would have predicted or liked. I imagine I’m not the only one.
Now I’m a junior, and while I was able to return to campus on time, I can feel the connections that should be stronger, the ones that were never made, and the ones that fell apart. My friends and I have issues, both mental and physical, from this pandemic. My time in college has been defined by it. I don’t know what a normal semester would be like — I’ve never had one, save for my first.
That trip that was canceled is now planned to happen during my senior year. What was originally planned to be a fun, educational, and warmer way to spend spring break will be part of my senior capstone. But for all the things I haven’t done in college, I’ve also made friends I wouldn’t have made without COVID-19, reconnected with old hobbies, and enjoyed my time here.
I’ve come to terms with my normal. It isn’t productive to imagine what could have or should have happened — normal college for me is COVID college.
As restrictions ease, I won’t be “returning to normal”. But that’s definitely for the best.