Letter from my first semester of college

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Photo courtesy of Olivia Fishman.

I usually type notes instead of jotting them down on paper. When I write, I use a special pen. But, this pen can’t be purchased at your local office supply store or Amazon because it’s from Occidental College’s office of admission.

I got this one-of-a-kind orange and black ballpoint pen at a prospective student open house last November, way before I knew that I would have to begin my first semester virtually. I’m instantly saddened  when I look at this pen because it reminds me that I should be on campus and not at home 20 miles away in West LA.

My anticipation to begin college dates back to when I was accepted Early Decision in December 2019, before anyone knew what COVID-19 was. My excitement to transition into college life only increased as the days went by.

But as the pandemic progressed and President Harry J. Elam Jr. announced this semester will operate virtually, the only transition I have gone through is an increase in my workload.

Luckily, I have been able to socialize with my peers in and out of class. These virtual interactions have been surprisingly fulfilling for me as I finally get to converse with people besides my sister or parents. One of my favorite ways I have connected with others is by playing the popular game Among Us. Despite these moments, it is hard not to imagine being on campus and getting to know my classmates face-to-face instead of on my computer screen.

I have heard current students talking about how much they miss hanging out with their friends in the quad or late night runs to the Cooler. I still haven’t done any of those things nor tried a drink from the Green Bean or hiked Mount Fiji, which I plan on doing as soon as I get on campus. I have yet to experience what it feels like to be an actual college student.

“Will I ever get to experience college normally?” I constantly ask myself.

I wonder how I will look back on my first semester of college in 20 years. Will it be significant?

I clearly remember my father asking me what I would do if Occidental was not in-person for the fall semester. I replied in denial and laughter.

I fell in love with Occidental for so many different reasons. One reason is how I could be an NCAA Division III golfer and still devote attention to my studies. However, this is not possible now and I don’t know when it will be. As of now, I am practicing in my backyard, but that is way less enjoyable than being surrounded by a supportive team. I have still found ways to stay engaged by joining The Occidental and Hillel, exploring potential research opportunities and interning at Oxy Arts. Although I have enjoyed these activities, I think I could be performing at my fullest potential if everything were in person.

I don’t know when that will be.

For now, all I can hope for is to be on campus in the spring, but LA has yet to have a large drop in cases. So I guess at this point it comes down to persevering through these obscure times which is way easier said than done.