As a member of the Loveland High School graduating class of 2020 and freshly-enrolled University of Cincinnati Bearcat, I have had to adapt to the drastic circumstances COVID imposed on my education, experiencing what both socially-distanced high school and college life have to offer. I witnessed the cancellation of Prom (an event I will now never be able to participate in), the extinction of the traditional lesson plan, and an individualized graduation ceremony to rival even the most jubilant of graduations. I could already sense my next steps forward would not be normal.
I am now a freshman at the University of Cincinnati, majoring in English, taking on the challenges of this new model of socially-distanced college life. In the weeks leading up to the first day of class, a time I imagine pre-COVID freshmen would have filled with exciting move-in days, club fairs, and campus-wide icebreakers, my mind was plagued with vague anxiety
Essentially, my only instructions were to check my email every single day for news. Sometimes I’d have to fill out forms, but most days were either an ad for a class to join, volunteer opportunities for the distant future, a statement from the university, or nothing at all. Every day I wondered if there was anything I could be doing– if there was anything I should be doing, or if there was some important task I had missed. It was near torture.
To fill the long gap before school began, I concerned myself with getting to know my would-be roommates through FaceTime and text conversations. We were all eager to begin our new lives together, despite the odds COVID stacked against us. We’d talk about which residence halls we liked, campus news, the latest safety precautions, and what we were most excited for in college. It was a pleasant escape from the uncertainty COVID drew upon us.
Alas, like many things cancelled post-spring 2020, our excitement was cut short. With no warning, in the first weeks of August, students’ classes were swapped from in-person to completely online. It was almost like dominos, watching students suddenly complain on social media that they had zero in-person lectures… one after another after another. Naturally, each of my roommates opted out of living on campus as their schedules became remote. I was no exception– today, I only have a single in-person class out of my five for which I originally registered. I, too, opted out of living on campus and now commute from home once a week to attend my one in-person class.
The anxiety-filled, socially-distanced rollercoaster that I experienced that summer eventually subsided and, in the weeks before school, I quietly came to terms with the facts. I dropped some classes and enrolled in others that would best benefit my remote learning experience, and it has proven effective so far. I wake up every morning at 8 a.m. to get in a workout and later attend classes virtually through the afternoon, reading chapters out of my textbooks and squeezing in lunch breaks where I can. I even practice the piano and guitar; hobbies the long summer lead me to recover. On the days I commute to campus, after my 9 a.m. in-person class, I cozy up in one of UC’s many study lounges and work the day away. It’s a comfortable way of schooling and something that I once feared would be terribly disastrous is now a quiet, focused way of approaching my studies.
The launch from high school to college was not a graceful one in any sense. There were plenty of cancelled senior festivities and difficult decisions that I had to come to terms with, the most significant of them accepting the fact that I wouldn’t have the same “freshman experience” that most college students receive and look forward to. There wouldn’t be large parties to participate in or grand summer vacations to take, and most of the education I’d be receiving would be online. However, I’ve decided that my best course of action is to embrace this semester for what it is: a masterclass in subverting your expectations for personal growth, both as a young college student and as a more well-rounded human being.
- Elizabeth Oh, future graduating class University of Cincinnati 2024