People are getting vaccinated, classes are coming to an end and the weather is getting warmer. For the first time in a long time, things seem to be changing for the better.
But since this time two years ago, everything has changed. Friends have been gained and lost, and our education has shifted online. For many incoming sophomores and first-year students, this fall will mark their first time on campus. For many others, myself included, it will be the first time in a while.
As we move back to Chapel Hill for a close-to-normal semester, it will be unlike any semester prior — we must relearn what it means to be a student and a social person. In the past year, nearly every aspect of our lives has been redefined, from hobbies to academics to relationships.
Taking courses online has been a struggle — and understandably so. Nearly two classes of students coming to campus in the fall will likely have never sat in a lecture hall before. Learning over Zoom has made us think critically about how we work, how we socialize with our peers and professors and our academic goals.
Digital learning has been like hitting a wall, and the shift back to in-person learning will likely be a similar hurdle.
The pandemic has also redefined our pastimes. What used to be social afternoons on Franklin Street with friends or sunny days on the quad is now a lot more time spent alone. We’ve taken up hobbies — writing, knitting, professional Netflix marathoning — and learned to be more comfortable alone.
Some of our relationships have suffered as a consequence. Whether it’s because we grew apart with time or because of the strain COVID-19 has placed on relationships, friends have been lost over the last year. Similarly, the digital age tools of Zoom University and GroupMe chats have allowed us to connect with new people, in ways we would have never expected.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, our mindsets have changed. The pandemic has meant that our lives have been reinvented, and the way we view the world and our relationships has changed with it. I’m definitely not the person I was a year ago, and I’ve learned to take comfort in that.
Rarely are we given opportunities to start fresh — to meet new people, break out of old habits and explore new interests. With all of the turmoil and changes of the last year, returning to campus in the fall is likely that opportunity.
At the same time, there can be an immense amount of pressure around having a blank slate. It’s intimidating and leads us to put too much pressure on finally returning to campus. There are fears about “doing it right” and making the most out of the time we have left at UNC.
Whether you feel like you’re starting over or continuing along a similar path, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Time spent stressing about these changes is not time well spent.
My first year at UNC, I lived in Craige Residence Hall with seven other people. This fall, I’ll be moving into a single dorm room. And although it’s taken a lot of convincing, I've finally decided that’s not a bad thing.
It’s time to shed away the parts of your life that no longer bring you joy or help you along your journey. Create space for yourself to grow and become comfortable with yourself.
And if you need to hit the reset button, redefine your boundaries and make healthy changes in your life, don’t be afraid to do so.
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