This isn't how you imagined your fall semester. You were supposed to be able to live in an apartment with your friends. You were supposed to be able attend class in-person with no masks or social distancing. You were supposed to be able to have a normal college experience. The pandemic was supposed to be under control.
You watch the number of cases rise and fall throughout the summer months, breathing a sigh of relief when the news reports a decline in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, but feeling anxiety set in as they began to rise once more. Already, some colleges and universities have made the decision to hold the fall semester remotely, but your school remains dedicated to giving its students an in-person experience.
You lay awake at night tormented by fears about the upcoming year: off-campus students are already holding parties on Eaton, so what would stop them from doing so in the fall, and how would the school be able to hold them accountable? If a roommate became infected, you'd most certainly become sick as well, and you'd risk transmitting the virus to those around you. You try to tell yourself that most people your age recover quickly, but you remain troubled by accounts of perfectly healthy young adults who barely managed to escape death. You do not want to become another statistic, and certainly not because of the carelessness of those around you.
Yet, when your school announces that students have the option to study remotely in the fall, you are hesitant to sign away this one-eighth of your college experience. After all, you've already been forced to surrender the second semester of your sophomore year to the pandemic.
Eventually, you decide that your safety outweighs the benefits of returning to campus. While the back-to-school season usually finds you roaming the aisles of Target, blissfully stockpiling new supplies and hunting for the perfect dorm decor, and meticulously organizing your belongings to prepare for the trek back to campus, this year, you move some of your dorm furnishings into your childhood bedroom. You order a few sweatshirts instead of the usual additions to your fall wardrobe, secretly pleased that you won't feel pressured to wear anything other than the cozy clothes you've become accustomed to for the past six months.
You realize that, although this isn't how you imagined your junior year of college, being home during what the nightly news refers to as "these uncertain times" might be a blessing in disguise, if not much less appealing than it might first appear, and that you are incredibly fortunate to have the option of living at home in the first place. You'll have the comfort of the familiarity of your childhood house and your family, the security of home-prepared meals, and a safe place to exercise. You, who never quite adapted to the discomfort of the dorm mattresses, will be able to sleep in your much-more-comfortable bed. And as much as you love your roommates, you'll enjoy the peaceful solitude of your own room—especially the ability to sing along to the newest Taylor Swift album as you do your homework without disturbing anyone or being judged. You, who like to go home some weekends during the school year, know that you won't transmit the virus to your immunocompromised loved ones, but rather that you'll be able to spend more time with them. Although you'll miss the movie marathons and family dinners that you and your roommates had planned out, binge-watching The Office with your sister and losing to your entire family at Clue will be fun, too.
Nonetheless, you'll always wonder what might've been if you'd returned to campus for the semester, and maybe you'll always regret your decision to study remotely, if only a little. You'll have lost time with your friends and roommates, who are some of the most important people in your life. You can text, Facetime, and Zoom, of course, but it won't be the same. You also might miss out on meeting new people, and you'll definitely miss out on the traditional college experience—the dorms, the dining halls, the late-night study sessions, a portion of the unique period in a young person's life that is their college years.
You also know, however, that in this time of great suffering and loss, a forgone semester of traditional college life pales in comparison to your safety and peace of mind. While you might always wonder what might have been, you'll be able to go forward knowing that you made the right decision for yourself.