Oct. 26, 2019 — the day I decided I wanted to be a student at North Carolina.
That day, I visited a friend who was a first-year at UNC, and we went to the UNC-Duke football game. The intense rivalry game kicked off at 4 p.m., with warm temperatures on a sunny fall afternoon. As I filed into the student section with my friend, I remembered how coming to Chapel Hill with my parents was one of my favorite things to do as a kid.
What really made me want to be a part of UNC took place right before kickoff, when "Jump Around" by House of Pain blared in Kenan Stadium. Being part of a section full of students jumping around and getting excited for the game, I recalled just why this was my dream school growing up. I couldn’t resist going to UNC and living in Chapel Hill for four years.
Fast forward almost a year later to Oct. 10, 2020, and I was finally able to attend a Tar Heel football game as a student. However, it didn’t feel quite the same as it did in 2019.
It was a noon game, but instead of blazing heat, rain poured from the sky, and instead of the student section being packed to the brim, approximately 1,000 students were scattered in the stands. Sure, it was a UNC football game, but the level of excitement I felt the year before just wasn’t there that day.
COVID-19 took away the rush of a sold-out Kenan Stadium, watching the Tar Heels with some of my closest friends. The first year of college I saw in my head simply didn’t happen. To say the least, I was bummed out.
However, as I would come to realize, as much as I was disappointed over the lack of a “typical” college sports year, it was for the best.
COVID-19 is a highly infectious virus, so not having more than 50,000 fans packed together in a stadium was ... for the best. It did take away the experiences I dreamed of having my first year in college, but I would’ve much rather been safe than sorry.
Besides, this year for UNC sports is going to better than last year.
With more than 24,000 students who've said they've received the COVID-19 vaccine, cheering on the Tar Heels in a full Kenan Stadium or Dean E. Smith Center is possible again. Being a UNC student with access to tickets for what is shaping up to be the most hyped football season since 1997 — with the Tar Heels ranked ninth in the AP preseason poll and a Heisman Trophy candidate in junior quarterback Sam Howell — is a fantastic opportunity. Not to mention a new era of Carolina basketball ushered in by new head coach Hubert Davis.
Losing one year of my college experience wasn't the end of the world. Sacrificing one year of college to an infectious disease is not what younger me thought would happen, just months away from heading to college. But older me is grateful that, hopefully, I'll be able to experience another sold-out UNC-Duke football game and maybe, with a little bit of luck from the ticket lottery, a UNC-Duke basketball game.
I can't wait to get a chance to remember why I wanted to be a Tar Heel in the first place. I can't wait to able to go to football games and other sporting events with friends.
I can’t wait to hear "Jump Around" and jump up and down on the silver bleachers with a full crowd of students.
It’s an exciting time to be a Tar Heel.