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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Welcome to your college student era

Sophomore Julia Finke laughs with her friends on the quad during a warm sunny day on Monday, Feb. 21, 2022.

I hate to break it to you, but you’re not in Europe anymore.

To the person reading this who is in the (what feels to be) small minority of people who actually stayed in the United States — or even North Carolina — this summer, good news! This reality check might hit you a little less hard.

Summer is gone. We’re trading in sun-drenched days for fluorescent library lighting and the sound of pool splashes for bell tower chimes. 

Days spent taking summer classes in historic French cities are now spent in brick buildings on the quad. You're not walking out of the subway to your dream internship — you’re walking to Phillips Hall. 

You were in your “city era," “beach era” or aforementioned “study-abroad-summer era,” but now it’s all been leveled. Like it or not, we’re back in our “college student era.”

As a collective, we’ve begun to blur the lines between fiction and reality. 

No doubt a product of social media trends, we see ourselves as main characters and, instead of simply living life through its respective seasons, we’ve begun to label them with token “eras” that shape how we might act, dress or live. 

So when the credits roll on your “hot girl summer,” what comes next? When we specifically define periods of our lives, it can lead to a harder time transitioning between different phases. However, accepting where we are as opposed to striving to be somewhere else can help combat this.

At the end of the day, romanticizing your life is a double-edged sword. 

On one hand, it might deepen your appreciation of what’s around you when you see it through that lens. For example, it's easier to get through a late-night paper writing session when you picture yourself as the quintessential college student. 

But on the other hand, it can result in conflicting thoughts or emotions when the things around you can’t be romanticized. It was a tumultuous summer in many ways — from virus surges to Supreme Court decisions — and sometimes we need to feel and process the not-so-romantic parts in order to cope. 

Homework and tests will come. Winter might feel bleak at times. There will be lows, but doesn't that make the highs so much sweeter? 

You’re not in Positano anymore, sipping a limoncello spritz on a Mediterranean balcony. You’re in Lenoir Dining Hall, eating lukewarm tater tots — and that’s okay.

Possessing the ability to see the value in a memorable season of life but not consistently wishing your current one away is key. Embrace where you are for what it is. Be expectant for what’s to come without counting down the days until it gets to you.

So, welcome back to campus! 

For sure, organizing a schedule or sprinting to an 8 a.m. class doesn't compare to running around Amsterdam with friends or living out your summer by the water. Your fill-in-the-blank era has reached its end, but it doesn’t have to be a bitter one. 

We’re all adjusting and getting into the new rhythm of a new school year. I challenge you to try this: take the time spent attempting to curate your life into something it might not be, and instead just live it, label-less and “era” free. Although, when the leaves are falling on campus and there’s a slight chill in the air, a little romanticizing won’t hurt anyone.


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