OPINION: My first normal year of college

If someone were to tell me as a junior in high school that the next normal school year I would have would be when I’m a junior in college, I would probably spit my Starbucks pink drink in their face and strut away in my Nike Air Forces. 

College was a place I always knew I was heading. How it was romanticized in films and TV shows, and the expressions on my brothers’ faces after returning home from Minnesota State with dozens of stories to tell was convincing enough to fill out the application forms. I also happened to be the third duck in a row to attend MSU, so I was comfortable and eager to take on the role of a Maverick. 

I was an infamous senior from the class of 2020, the year when everything changed.

I watched the world crumble through my phone screen, and sat inside while my last year of high school dwindled away. I always assumed I had a year of lasts, and when the day of my drive-thru graduation came, it hit me that the chapter book to my childhood did not contain a happy ending. 

Regardless of how my senior year turned out, I was optimistic to start my freshman year. The summer beforehand, everything was seemingly going back to normal. The world was opening up again, and I was ready to grow up. When I moved into Crawford Residence Hall in fall 2020, I thought it would be like any other college student’s freshman year. Sure enough, it was anything but. 

As one could predict, mixing together a group of fresh adults from different parts of the midwest into one university’s dorm halls during a global pandemic called for chaos. Cases of COVID-19 were hitting the dorms one by one, sending the infected to quarantine in the top floors of Preska Residence Community. Each day that I strolled to the dining hall for a meal, I would make sure to wave at the isolated above. Numbers started to fall, and by the time second semester rolled around, half of the people I knew from college moved home to safety. Except for me. 

Second semester of college flew by. My residence hall floor became a tight-knit friend group, as we had limited mask-less contact with the rest of the university. By the time sophomore year rolled around, I craved normal. Spoiler alert: I still did not get it.

MSU lifted the mask mandate my sophomore year, but this also stirred up waves of COVID cases in the area. I ended up catching the virus the first week of 2022, and my place of work was closed for nearly a month due to the uproar. 

Finally, my junior year came, the one I am currently polishing off. Although it might not be the average college student’s version of normal a decade ago, this has been the closest to it thus far. Getting to explore the place I never had the chance to in the three years I’ve lived here has been riveting. I’ve met plenty of amazing people that I’m confident will stick around, and I get to finish the year without a sudden slap in the face.

I’m especially hopeful that next year, I will get to walk across a stage and flip my tassel for the very first time. 

Write to Mercedes Kauphusman at mercedes.kauphusman@mnsu.edu

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