Last week, my sister, an incoming first-year student at UNC, wrote an op-ed about how COVID-19 is affecting the class of 2024. As an undergraduate myself, I know how important your first year is. From the moment you step on campus for the first time, to the feeling of relief after you turn in your last final exam, the experience from start to finish informs your entire UNC experience.
As that experience becomes increasingly uncertain for the class of 2024, I can only offer my sympathies in response. I know how unimaginably worrying it might be to have your college experience threatened. Many of us are experiencing it ourselves, though the consequences vary from class to class.
Your first year is widely seen as a fresh start. As newly minted 'adults,' you get the rare opportunity to reinvent yourselves away from your hometown. New friends, new experiences, new classes and new rooms — everything is new and exciting. The uniqueness of each day, especially towards the beginning, fills everyone with an energy and sense of wonder that is hard to come by once routine sets in. It is a powerful feeling, and not many will forget it.
Those unique experiences fundamentally change us. The person who walks the stage at high school graduation is not the same that steps out of their first-year dorm for the last time. This is by design, and anyone who has listened to their parents reminisce about college knows this. Still, there is a certain wistful quality to reflecting on the thousands of little idiosyncrasies that came together to create a new person.
This is not to say everyone has an unambiguously positive first year at UNC. The experiences of adjustment, of fitting in, of comparing yourself to your peers are as much a part of your first year as are the wonder and excitement. Sometimes the first-year experience means crying at 3 a.m., stricken with homesickness. Unfortunately, there’s no way to predict when and why these problems arise. Part of the experience is playing the cards that are dealt, even if the hand itself is staggeringly unfair.