August 16: the day I finally returned to Hopkins after the pandemic unpredictably stole a year from many college students. As I sat in the rental car with my parents and drove down the oh-so-familiar N. Charles Street, memories from freshman year flooded my mind, and I couldn’t help but feel teary-eyed at the sentiments from the past.
Back then, my last memory of campus was hanging out on the Beach at 4 a.m. before calling an Uber from Wolman Hall to catch my flight for spring break, leaving without any idea of when we would return. I had been dreaming of resuming the college experience for so long, and it felt surreal to even be back at Hopkins after being away for over a year. Passing the Gatehouse, seeing the destruction of Mattin and catching a glimpse of the Beach before arriving at Nine East filled my heart with all the emotions: nostalgia, sadness and excitement.
Now, midway through the semester, it feels as if I have settled into the hustle and bustle of college life once again. Filling my weekdays with meetings and classes and my weekends with a balance of parties, fun and studying seems reminiscent of college life before the pandemic. Even incorporating pandemic-related behavior like wearing masks out and getting tested for COVID-19 regularly has become second nature.
Though there have been times when the passing weeks seem to get monotonous, there has always been some event or activity that makes each week exciting, may it be a spontaneous dinner out, cooking a new dish or surprising friends for their birthdays.
But the transition was not easy. I recall the momentary lapses of anxiety that matched the eagerness I felt when reuniting with friends in person and finally meeting other friends I made over Zoom. Would the friendships and connections feel the same as before? Would the energy be different? Would the online interactions be the same in person?
I may have been returning as an upperclassman, but I still felt like a lost freshman who needed to search up where buildings were on campus again. Really, I felt like a lost adult, especially since I now needed to make time to feed and take care of myself on top of going to class and my extracurriculars. No longer could I rely on my mom’s home-cooked meals or have extra time at home to work out.
But as the universe has proven to me time and time again, everything eventually works itself out. You just truly need to trust and believe in it, which is why I made it a personal resolution to have a positive outlook on any challenges that would come my way this semester.
Looking back and reflecting on how typical this life presently seems, it feels bizarre to think that a year ago I was waking up as the sun set on a nocturnal schedule, taking classes in a different continent and going through the motions in quarantine. But after settling into this new chapter in my life, it is relieving to see that I was able to find my place on campus once again.
Even after the world has gone through a tumultuous year, the stability and routine of college gave me a sense of reassurance that some things, such as friendships and places, are meant to stay. Though we were all separated for over a year, the unique shared experiences of being college students during the pandemic have united us. Moreover, I have a newfound appreciation for my favorite spots on campus, where I look forward to doing work in the Hutzler Reading Room, sitting on the Beach, watching the sunset on the terrace and taking weekly grocery trips to Streets Market.
Most importantly, as I returned to campus, I wanted to renew my commitment to learning more about Baltimore. Last year, I used my position as a News Editor to connect with both the Hopkins and Baltimore communities, as I covered events and conducted interviews with people thousands of miles away with a 12-hour time difference. Even if I was at home, I learned so much more about the history of my campus and the city its in.
Now that I am actually in Baltimore, I want to take advantage of the many available opportunities to discover more restaurants, learn about the problems affecting the communities here and get involved.
In some ways, it feels like the pandemic granted me a reset on how I want to take control of my college life. As someone who previously believed that it was healthy to constantly be working and say “yes” to every opportunity despite feeling overwhelmed, the past year has emphasized the beauty in taking things slow to appreciate the present and take time for oneself. Slight changes in one’s mindset and attitude can cause ripple effects to transform one’s overall experience for the better.
Now that I’m down to my last two years at Hopkins, I aim to treasure every moment of my time left and fill my camera roll with the captivating campus sunrises.
Michelle Limpe is a junior from the Philippines studying Chemistry and Public Health. She is a Managing Editor for The News-Letter. In her articles, she likes to reflect on finding the silver linings in life to give meaning to her struggles.
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