The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday December 4th

Column: When your first semester is one week


Liam Bendezu, opinion writer. 

Dear first-years,

I am so sorry. 

While you knew this year would be difficult, one week of UNC is not what you were expecting. 

COVID-19, and the carelessness of the administration and your fellow students, has taken your first semester experience. You feel angry, depressed, lonely and isolated. You have every right to feel that way. And I feel confident in saying that other undergraduates and the wider campus community hurt for and with you. 

There is a set of experiences that define your first year of college: being overwhelmed by those large, lecture hall style courses; the allure of finally living on your own; meeting those who may already feel like best friends and starting the process of growing into a greater version of yourself. Many of you have managed, in one way or another, to begin your time at UNC in spite of the eerie quiet of campus life, the constant Zoom calls and the specter of disease that has now affected every aspect of life. 

On the Editorial Board, we often discuss how our pieces should include some “call to action” for the audience. Yet, in this case, I have trouble coming up with something substantial to add. At the end of the day, it seems like the best thing one can do is something you already know: keep moving forward. Despite the loss of your senior year of high school and part of your first year of college, you have taken up the challenge of finding joy and purpose. The class of 2024 can learn something, through its unique experience, that some are still trying to learn: to challenge loss with unfettered resilience. 

I am entirely convinced that when the state of the world improves (and it will eventually), you are best equipped to recognize what aspects of UNC need change to make this University a better place for everyone. You understand what the undergraduate experience ought to be, and where administrators, officials and student leaders have faltered in supporting you. Inevitably, Carolina will be yours to lead. In some sense, it already is. Seize the opportunity when it comes and make the best of it. 

In the meantime, do what you need to do. Feel how you need to feel. Screw pants, keep wearing pajamas. Yes, eat the entire quart of ice cream in the freezer. Text and FaceTime your new friends often. Take as many of the good parts of UNC you’ve already found with you to wherever you may be going for the remainder of this fall; the rest will be waiting for you when you get back. 

I feel for you, class of 2024. I know you’re hurting. But I know you’re also the ones to make the best of it. 

- Liam Bendezú


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