Being on campus for the first time is like starting college for a second time. In a completely remote first semester, I found that the academics of online school were the only aspect of college I had to worry about. Open up the laptop, sign in and deal with the side effects of online school.
Admittedly, last semester wasn’t entirely bad. I made connections with some of my peers from my freshman seminar, realizing later that I already had friends on campus. It’s much easier to connect with people once you’re in person. I also figured out that I have another academic interest. I met people with a major that sounded interesting to me, and I realized I could major in this too: cinema and photography. I have always loved the concept of visual storytelling in addition to the written ones I express through my writing major.
Being on campus is not what I expected. Having attended a summer writing program at Ithaca College a couple summers ago, I had memories of what campus was like in a pre-pandemic world. I thought I knew what the college would be like, but did not consider the small details that have changed. This includes everything from limited events to only walking down and up certain staircases. In my first few days on campus, I felt lost. Everything was overwhelming, especially the dining hall with its long lines and blasting music. Adjusting to living in a dorm room is definitely a challenge. I’ve never shared a room with another person, communal bathrooms aren’t favorable and being in an entirely new location made me feel lost internally.
There’s a kind of loneliness that is involved with the first days of moving to campus. We’re trying to adjust to new habits and responsibilities, all while attempting to make new friends and connections. My advice is that people, friends, come with time. On my first two nights on campus, I grew frustrated wondering how I could make friends quicker. I soon realized this was flawed thinking because forcing friendships is never enjoyable.
Being on campus poses its own challenge, like being around a large number of people during a pandemic. I do, however, feel safer than I thought I would. I would never wish to return to a completely remote semester. On campus, I’ve met people beyond a screen, gotten to explore campus, study in the library, laugh with friends and still have time to be with myself and learn to be independent.
Mikayla Tolliver is a current freshman at Ithaca College. In her column, “Ask a Freshman,” she answers questions about her freshman experience. Have a question you want answered? Email opinion editor Amisha Kohli at firstname.lastname@example.org.