By Sanskriti, 19, Wellesley, Massachusetts
The last three years of my life have been anything but ordinary. This may not come as a surprise given what we’ve all been through – a never-ending pandemic. But, for the longest time, I’ve wanted to fit in, not be unique, not stand out. My senior year of high school ended abruptly without a farewell or graduation. And after a summer in lockdown, I joined college online and had to wait until my sophomore year to step on campus for the first time.
I didn’t know it then but March 13, 2020, was the last time I wore my high school uniform, the last time I saw my whole graduating class, the last time I ate the dining hall food we all complained about, the last time we counted down the minutes to 3:20 pm, and the last time we made our way down the stairs, past the palm trees in the courtyard, and through the gates, together. In hindsight, it was one of my favorite days at school ever. It was a day where nothing special happened, but I felt really close to my school and everyone around me. It one of my happiest memories but also a goodbye I never got to say.
After a summer in lockdown filled with endless nights on Houseparty (the app) with my friends, playing Ludo, and watching way too much Netflix, freshman year of college approached. Mindful of my privilege and the severity of the pandemic, I decided not to go to campus and stay where I was – Hyderabad, India. As a result, my freshman year online comprised of days where my classes started at 5:00 pm and my day ended at 2:00 am or sometimes even 4:00 or 5:00 am. I’d wake up, sleep, and eat at odd hours. I always imagined staying up that late during my freshman year of college, I just never though it would be to attend classes.
In the midst of the most disorienting and isolating freshman year of college, one thing I was grateful for is the 4-day schedule my school has. Most Fridays, I never had any classes which meant I could take the day to recover, gather myself, and spend some time doing one of my quarantine activities. I would spend my Fridays trying out new baking recipes or going on long drives around my city. Blasting music in the car and driving around town by myself, became my escape, my stress reliever. Even though it’s all over now, I still look back sometimes and ask myself how I made it through what felt like endless nights. But it’s all a blur to me.
I’d be lying if I said I don’t think about everything that I’ve missed – freshman parties, staying up late making new friends, skipping 8 am classes together, rushing for a sorority, and joining clubs and organizations. Instead, when I finally did arrive on campus, I was one of the only unfamiliar sophomores around. I can’t say that I settled right in. I can’t say that it was easy to make friends, learn in an online-hybrid environment, or feel like I belong. But I like to look back on the things that gave me comfort. My dorm room which was all shades of blue – from the blanket on my bed to my painting above it, which I brought from home. My daily walks in the snow on my way to class. Staying at Trim, our dining hall, with my friends until it closed. Running into people at the library. And hanging out with my roommate at any hour of the day or night.
One of the reasons I like to look back so fondly on my time on-campus is because I’m heading off to a new place again, in the Fall – London – for my study abroad program. I like to think of all the times I felt safe, and comfortable instead of all the times I felt confused, lonely, and out of place. Because starting over every year is scary. I don’t know what the next year holds for me but here’s hoping that moving to a new city, again, gives me a fresh start, a chance to reinvent myself, and live out my wildest dreams.