Students are experiencing more free time than usual during the COVID-19 pandemic, and with this spare time, they are able to reflect on their most cherished memories from before isolation.
For UNC first-year Devin Wu, the latter half of his senior year of high school was just beginning to get exciting when stay-at-home requirements were implemented.
He was just about two weeks into a new job at Chipotle when the virus hit, causing him to miss senior year traditions like graduation and prom.
Wu said he feels particularly nostalgic about his senior year whenever he watches any sort of movie where large groups of people are able to congregate in one space.
“I went to this really big Eagles and Cowboys game at the end of the year, and that was one of the best times I think I’ve had in my life,” Wu said. “It makes me a little nostalgic. The adults are like, ‘You’re going to be able to do things soon,’ but it’s honestly just so uncertain.”
First-year Angela Rosario has also noticed several significant differences in her life that remind her of better times.
“Life seemed perfect when I was able to spend time with my friends whenever we could, going wherever we wanted,” Rosario said. "We didn't have to worry about forgetting our masks or hand sanitizer whenever we stepped out the door, and we didn’t have to worry about contracting a life-threatening disease.”
Rosario said she feels sentimental when thinking back to her senior year.
“At that point in my life, I was starting my senior year in high school, finishing my associate degree, going to Friday night football games with my friends and applying to colleges,” Rosario said. “I mostly feel nostalgic now about childhood things because of how carefree childhood was.”
Despite feeling robbed of their senior year experiences, Rosario and Wu have both developed a newfound gratefulness for their past experiences and memories in quarantine.
“The coronavirus made me realize how much better life was in the sense of being able to go wherever you wanted,” Rosario said. “It made me reflect on life and acknowledge things I wouldn't have otherwise paid attention to.”
Even though he feels he missed out on a lot, Wu said he is grateful for the insights and opportunities the pandemic has given him.
“We missed out on a lot, and it was tough, but I feel like there's a lot more I'm grateful for,” Wu said. “Sometimes I do question myself about what would have happened if this pandemic never happened.”
Another first-year, Jaime Halton, said that while a large part of his senior year of high school and first year of college have been affected by the pandemic, he still has positive aspirations for the future.
Halton was looking forward to running at his dream college, but is unable to do so because of the virus' limitations. He wasn't able to have the senior year of high school he wanted, and now he recognizes that many things will likely change in the future due to the pandemic.
“Handshakes are going to be a thing of the past,” Halton said. “Pre-pandemic, I gave fist pumps and handshakes to friends in business situations, but now when I think about it, COVID-19 has really been a wake-up call. And I feel like a lot of things will change for the better worldwide.”
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