March 31, 2024

Jessica Boozel

How COVID-19 Rescued My College Experience

College experience

Starting college is like stepping into a whole new world — more freedom, more responsibility, more uncertainty. I began college just before the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pandemic was not a good thing by any means, it actually saved my college career.

A Rocky Start

Throughout much of my freshman year, I felt lost most of the time — like I didn't belong anywhere. It got so tough that I seriously considered dropping out, not because the classes were too hard but because I couldn't find my groove socially.

No matter how many A’s you have, eating dinner alone most nights doesn’t make you any less lonely. What led to all my loneliness? I hate to admit it: a boy. 

We didn’t date for very long, but he was my first boyfriend in college and my first real relationship. We did everything together. We ate meals together, studied together, and had the same friends. When we broke up, it was hard. Because we did all those things together, I ended up doing those things alone.

Then, during spring break of my second semester, I received the news that no one could return to attend classes on campus due to COVID-19. While this was devastating for most students, it was a relief for me.

Personal Reflection Amid the Pandemic

Since we all had to quarantine, I came home to be with my family while continuing my studies online. It provided the perfect mental health break for me. 

I took the time to reflect and do better for myself. Like many other people, I walked a lot during the quarantine. During those walks, I thought about myself, the breakup, and what I could do to never feel that isolated and lonely again. 

Since then, I’ve set my standards for men much higher. I will never let anyone hurt me like that again because I know I deserve more, and I won’t accept less. 

I knew that I wanted things to be different when going back to school for the fall semester of my sophomore year. I didn’t want to be alone anymore, and I didn’t want to let the fear of rejection close me off from making friends. 

And I knew that for my college experience to be what I envisioned, I needed to push myself to get out of my shell. I vowed to speak out more in class, talk to more of my peers, and go out on the weekends for fun.

By the time fall rolled around, students could take hybrid classes and live off-campus. I moved in with a girl I met during freshman year, and she introduced me to some people she knew. Those people are now my best friends for life. They gave me the best college experience I could have ever dreamed of, and we all continue to talk every day. They are truly my family. 

Another thing that really helped me was joining a student media club on campus. SUTV (Shippensburg University TV) is where I met many great people with the same major and similar interests. I felt most comfortable with my friend group, but SUTV was a very close second. 

Advice for Moving Onward and Upward

Unfortunately, I don’t have any secret tips or tricks to miraculously make challenging moments less difficult. But I can tell you that what helped me was simply time…moving on from the past, reflecting on what I wanted and the changes I needed to make, and surrounding myself with people who love me. 

My message to anyone who is scared about going to college or who is having a hard time adjusting during their freshman year is that it truly does get better. 

And heed my advice: don’t let a relationship define you like I did. I held myself back so much and lost worth in myself because a silly 19-year-old boy didn’t want me. Ultimately, I realized that I wanted me and I’m worthy of friendship and happiness — and that’s all that matters. 

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