My first-year university experience was unlike anything that I had ever imagined. Like any person finishing their last year of high school, I was incredibly excited for university and more than ready to start this new life that I had spent months fantasizing about in my head. Let me preface this by saying that I started university six months after all my close friends started university because my school started in February instead of September as most do.
Like every naive first year, I was going to throw myself a lot of clubs, go to parties, make loads of friends and spend all these sleepless nights in the library studying and rushing to finish these final assignments that I had left to the last minute because of procrastination. As cliche and tacky as it sounds, I was going to live the ultimate uni experience and soak up every opportunity that was thrown my way. University was going to be a chance for me to restart, really figure out who I was, and find myself as an individual.
However, as I arrived in a new place, so did the COVID-19 pandemic. Within a matter of weeks, I found myself going into lockdown by myself in an environment that was completely unknown to me. Needless, to say I was devastated with the life I was living and hated every minute of it. I gave myself a hard time for feeling the way I did because I knew there were other people who may have had it harder than me, and being upset meant that I was being selfish and ungrateful. I’ve learned now that, behavior like that was destructive for me mentally. I should have allowed myself the space to experience the emotions I was feeling even if they were minute in the grand scheme of things.
University itself was hard enough to adjust to, my mental state made me less motivated and made me lose interest in what I was studying. I found myself barely being able to attend my online lectures and tutorials which meant I barely kept up with the content. I was not doing myself any favors. I felt incredibly isolated, did not know anyone in my classes to ask for help if I needed it, but was also intimidated by the idea of emailing my tutor and lecturers. I felt helpless. I’ve learned now that at the end of the day they will help you, but I needed to reach out first in order to receive it. My situation was not unique to just me but to multiple other students both local and international who have either lost out on a semester, a year or even graduation
One thing I did not anticipate was how long this pandemic would last. You hear the phrase “COVID normal” being thrown around so often and I realized that this could very well be my new normal. I had to come to terms with than rather than fight it. I needed to do this in order to spare my own feelings but to also provide myself with relief. There still is, no date for when, or if, life will return to normal. I found that once I stopped comparing my situation to what it should have been like, I started to appreciate it more. Yes, lectures and tutorials would have been a lot more fun in person, but I learned to appreciate the freedom in being able to just wake up and hop into class whilst still being in my pajamas. It made me more motivated to actually “show up” for class. I also appreciated the mundane details, like that I did not have to worry about catching the bus to campus or running late for lectures.
Interestingly enough, I did in fact manage to truly understand myself and discover who I was. There’s beauty in being your own company for months on end because you spend an almost awful amount of time reflecting on your past experiences and who you are as an individual. I find that I do understand myself better; the pandemic sent me to the bottom of the earth. It was the most mentally challenging thing I have ever had to experience and it honestly made me a lot stronger whilst showing me how strong I was.
I spent the majority of my time frustrated that the pandemic deprived me of these experiences, it took me a long time to finally accept it but I’ve started appreciating my seemingly different experience. Sure, it’s not what I expected of college, but I’m determined to make the most of it.
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