A huge part of going to college is breaking out of your shell, and I, admittedly, was a bit of the stereotypical “shy freshman” during my first semester at OU. Now, as a senior, I feel a lot more confident in myself and navigating university life.
But sometimes, returning back to Athens can still leave me — and others — with looming questions and anxieties, despite how comfortable we may feel with college life now.
The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated this feeling, especially among new students. Going to college is tough without stacking a global pandemic on top of that, and it’s undoubtedly not the “traditional” college experience that one may have been looking forward to.
For older students, on the other hand, one of those looming questions every semester since the outbreak of COVID-19 is one of comparison: Will college ever feel like it used to?
The number of COVID-19 cases in Athens County has been on the rise, and the spread of the delta and omicron variants was cited as a reason for new precautions, such as having all OU students complete a COVID-19 test before the start of spring semester. The university has also altered its masking requirements to solely recommend the usage of KN95, N95, KF94 or three-ply surgical masks. Some events and student organization meetings are being moved online or remain online.
It’s clear that COVID-19 is here to stay, and as a senior, I’m further left to wonder what the impact will be for my spring semester — my final opportunity to make memories in Athens before moving into the next chapter of my life.
Despite the frustrations many other students and I have about the pandemic continuing to upend our ways of life, I’m trying to remain optimistic. I think about the silver linings that have taken place during the pandemic: Posties have continued to produce award-winning work, I’ve been able to safely see my friends in Athens again after the pandemic originally forced us online and, despite everything, we are all still able to be Bobcats and receive an education amid times where nothing is certain.
The weight of this pandemic can be soul-crushing. It’s hard to simply be a person sometimes, let alone a student, journalist or whatever other hats you may wear in your life. However, it also helps put things we used to take for granted in college into a better perspective.
Now more than ever, I’m thankful for unwavering friends, a simple cup of coffee that helps get me through my day and the professors who dedicate so much time to making classes engaging and impactful, despite the class modality. While this may not be the senior year I envisioned when I first arrived in Athens, I’m going to make the most of it. Treat yourself with kindness this spring, Bobcats, and know that we will get through this semester together, just as we have since spring 2020.