Growing up, I was always looking forward to my college years. A time where you are supposed to grow up, find your people and make a life for yourself. In the fall of 2019, I knew I belonged at the University of Kentucky. I felt at home on campus and I fell in love with my degree program, faculty, and all of the opportunities I knew I would have at UK.
Fast forward to March of 2020. My senior year of high school, canceled. Not having the ending of my senior year was devastating, and I'm sure dealing with the pandemic during your senior year is just as difficult, if not more so. We are all right there with you. We've been there. Living in a pandemic is hard enough but going into a chapter that is supposed to be the best years of your life is extremely tough. I know it has been for me.
I never imagined I would have to move into my home away from home on campus in August 2020 wearing masks and worrying about a pandemic. I never imagined having to get a COVID test before coming to campus. I never imagined I would live my first semester of college through a computer screen and through many Zoom lectures and never meeting a single classmate or professor in-person.
Since I have been in college, I haven't experienced college life without being in the midst of a pandemic. I know we have all had different experiences dealing with the current state of our world, but here is some of my advice to you, next year's college freshmen, as you do your best to navigate the next few years of your life.
First, take care of yourself. Take care of your mental health. Social distancing and isolation are two very tough things to deal with in your teenage years if you are a social butterfly like many others. Being alone in your residence hall, trying to protect yourself and others from getting sick is difficult, but you are doing what is right. Practicing self-care is crucial to surviving college even during a normal year. Something I found very helpful is taking advantage of some resources on campus such as the University of Kentucky Counseling Center, where you can find many helpful therapists and groups to help you with many different things.
Secondly, set a schedule for yourself. Wake up in the morning and grab a coffee from Starbucks, or grab an omelet from The Fresh Food Company at the 90. If you have virtual classes like I did my first semester, having a schedule is important. Keeping yourself on track and setting time aside to complete assignments or go to office hours will without a doubt keep you feeling better and help you succeed.
After waking up and logging onto your Zoom classes (if you have them), participate! Participating in my online meetings helped create an atmosphere similar to the one I would have experienced if I were in an actual classroom. Asking questions, commenting, or interacting with your professors and classmates will allow you to have the closest experience to being in a classroom as possible. Along with participating, if you have virtual classes, create a workspace for yourself. Don't do your classes on your bed or in a beanbag, sit at your desk with a place where you can take notes and pay attention. I know, your bed is comfy and your desk might not be but trust me, it is a lot easier to pay attention when you have a space set up to allow you to do so.
Lastly, lean on your people. Keep up with your family and friends. Call your momma. Call your grandparents. Talk to those friends from high school with who you've since parted ways. Having a support system will undoubtedly make your college experience easier.
I know college can be hard and attending college in a pandemic can be even harder, but if you set yourself up for success I promise you will be able to accomplish anything you dream of! Welcome to UK and good luck, Class of 2025!