In October of 2019, I found out I was accepted into my dream school. I was looking forward to so many things during my freshman year, such as welcome week, fall fest, and semiformal. Little did I know my freshman year of college would be different in ways I could have never imagined.

COVID-19 has changed the ways universities operate now. There are so many things I have to think about before I exit my dorm room. I have to check my temperature, make sure I am not feeling ill, and have an extra mask with me at all times. It is a scary time to be alive. It has been challenging to distinguish the difference between having allergies, a common cold, or COVID. It is already tricky enough to transition from high school to college. The added stress of the pandemic has made things harder. I am so thankful for all of the precautions my university is taking to help students, faculty, and staff feel safe during all of the world’s chaos right now.

Hybrid learning is not as bad as I thought it was going to be. Surprisingly, I enjoy hybrid learning. I feel like I have more ownership over how I spend my days now. Routines are something important to me. Keeping a constant routine has helped me tremendously. I rely heavily on google calendar, post-it notes, and my agenda to keep myself on top of my work.

Going into the semester, I was so concerned about making new friends with the pandemic going on. Once I arrived on campus, the fear disappeared. Making friends felt natural. My hallmates became my family. Shoutout to my hallmates and friends for being awesome! The best decision I could have made was getting plugged into community. Through the two small groups I am in, I have met some incredible people. I thank God every day for all of the friendships I have made at AU.

One important lesson I have learned as a freshman is the importance of pouring into myself. Now with the pandemic, I feel like self-care is more important than ever. Once I take care of myself, then everything else will fall into place. Self-care looks different for everybody, but for me, self-care looks like taking a break from schoolwork, going for walks, reading a book, and unplugging from technology.

Don’t get me wrong; not all days are easy. Some days I think, “When is this pandemic going to be over?!”. If 2020 has taught me anything, it is to pick up the broken pieces and make something beautiful. Yes, COVID-19 sucks, but I am trying my hardest to find light in the small things. COVID-19 has brought out an inner strength inside me that I would’ve never known about if it wasn’t for the pandemic.

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