Freshmen Year: COVID-19 Edition
Starting college last fall as a freshman at the University of Michigan amid COVID-19 was filled with uncertainty and anxiety, as well as excitement and an overwhelming sense of independence I had never experienced before. This major transition in my life had a steep learning curve as I began to navigate all sorts of adult responsibilities like scheduling appointments, figuring out transportation (without a car), health insurance, and more. There were other tasks, such as doing my laundry, dishes, and other chores that I had grown used to long before college but were now complicated by the nature of living in a dorm and sharing these amenities. Let me tell you, trying to wash Ramen seasoning stains out of the plastic bowls from Target that everyone and their mother had in a tiny bathroom sink was not ideal. Everything you eat out of that bowl afterward inevitably smells just a little bit like your last meal.
I lived in Bursley my first semester, which ended up being a pretty classic freshman year situation. I was able to meet a bunch of new people and was grateful being able to live on campus at all, given the pandemic. Before coming i had mentally prepared myself to share a room and was looking forward to having an open-door policy in order to make friends. What I wasn’t prepared for was being told to move out in November and scrambling to figure out what to do for the Winter semester.
Many of my peers chose to go home, as the University advised us to do. I, however, wanted to avoid this if at all possible, given that I had three younger siblings in high school working from home and many other factors that would have made my course load even more challenging to manage. Not to mention after spending nearly 15 weeks away from home, I was not about to give up the newfound freedom I had discovered on campus.
I had a few options, but I ended up choosing to sublet with four roommates. I was relieved to finally find an arrangement in my budget, yet anxious to move into a house with a new group of people. I was also faced with a flurry of new responsibilities such as grocery shopping, meal planning, as well as budgeting for rent, utilities, and all the other expenses that arise when living on your own (which really add up). I got better after many weeks of practice and the help of my older roommates, whose advice and insight I truly valued as I tried new meals, collected pantry supplies, and acclimated to living in this new space. One of the most helpful things about living with my roommates was our family dinner schedule. We take turns cooking dinner for the house, which has been a lifesaver as it reduces the amount of meal planning and grocery shopping we each have to do.
I could not have anticipated the challenges I was faced with this past year. My peers and I did not have the same opportunities as previous cohorts did their freshman year. We had to meet our classmates for the first time through our screens, and there was little way to decompress after a long day/week that would have been safe with COVID. I have wrestled with feelings of disappointment and anxiety for next year, and like many of us, I felt robbed of the experiences that everyone else got to have. The chance to build genuine connections face-to-face, sit in lecture halls, hang out in the dining hall or library after class, lose your voice in the Big House at a football game, and so much more. The conclusion I have come to is you can see this year as a complete loss or as a slow transition to “real” college life, like a preview before a movie. I choose to see it that way.