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  • Writer's pictureEmily Gursky

Four years, four takeaways

In August of 2019, I moved away from home for the very first time, to a new state and a new school where I’d have a completely fresh start. “Call if you need anything,” my mom said through teary eyes, before rolling up her window in my dad’s truck. Later, I unpacked my last bag and sat down on my dorm room bed. Little did I know, the next four years would both challenge and fulfill me, and would make me a better student, friend and person for it.

Freshman year is the epitome of the unknown.

Freshman year was all about adjustments. Getting used to new roommates, classes with a bunch of strangers, and just being away from home for the first time were all expected challenges, but still took time to get used to. Looking back now I realize that the biggest adjustment I had to make came from the Covid-19 pandemic, which changed everything during the spring. Having to transition back home while keeping up with my responsibilities as a student was hard. I’d finally just gotten used to college life, then everything made a complete 180. But, just like anything else, I found myself adjusting to yet another new normal. In the process, I began to enjoy time being home and the new routines I developed more. One new routine was watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy every night with my entire family, which was something we never did pre-Covid. This is now a staple in our household, and is still a way for us to come together for a shared experience each night. Experiences like this during that time of my college life helped me learn the importance of being flexible.

Sophomore year is for growth.

Sophomore year offered its own unique set of challenges, including the continued curveballs that the pandemic threw our way— I even got Covid right in the middle of the year, and dealt with long-haul symptoms for a while afterwards. On top of this, there was no swim season at that time to fill my days, so my schedule for six months out of the year completely changed. However, this gave me more time to grow into the college workload and to invest time developing a stronger bond with a few friends who would soon become family to me. Due to remote classes and a campus that frequently closed due to Covid cases, we never knew what was going to happen, so we had to roll with the punches. I now think this made my friends and I enjoy our time together even more—we tried to make each weekend something to look forward to. One of my favorite memories was setting up a projector in our floor lounge, and taking over the space for movie nights with our masks on. We’d take a vote and watch mainly happy, heartfelt movies or ones that were nostalgic, like the Harry Potter series. It became our own little bubble, a safe space to escape to once we were able to pull our eyes off our computer screens at the end of the day. That year, I gave myself some room to breathe amid all the chaos. In hindsight, I absolutely needed that.

Junior year will test your limits.

I felt like junior year was a turning point for me academically—I was making much more sophisticated work in my classes, feeling more professional. With that though, the academic pressure felt like it was pressing on me like a vice at times. It seemed like I just couldn’t catch a break, a never-ending sense of fatigue. In fact, basically right after I finished my last assignment of finals week in the spring, I got a migraine as I started to pack up and head home—as if my body waited politely before punishing me for the lack of sleep and surplus of caffeine I put it through all semester. Looking back, I absolutely should have made a better effort to protect my mental health by prioritizing breaks when I needed them, sleeping more, and not being so hard on myself with the work that I was doing. If I had done this every year, I can only imagine how less stressed I would have been, and how much more I’d be able to live in the moment.

Senior year is for soaking it all in.

This last year has certainly thrown a lot of work at me like junior year did, but all I really needed to do was breathe—I was not going to let the stresses of senior year keep me from enjoying the last few months I had of being part of campus life. Once I realized this, I suddenly found myself just doing more and enjoying all the time I had with my favorite people. As a result, I started to take so many pictures and videos that I’m not sure how I didn’t run out of storage on my phone. I captured all the moments that just made me feel happy to be here—like driving down the road to Ready Coffee with my friends singing along to music at the top of our lungs. Or, my best friend and I taking our Razor scooters around campus late on a Saturday night. At some point, pictures and videos of these memories will be all I really have once I graduate, anyway. So whatever’s going on, snap the picture. I know I’m glad I did.

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