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Year One: The second-years’ pandemic dilemma

By Anjali Choudhary, September 23, 2021—

I, along with thousands of my peers, have been badgered with continuous isolation, devastation and confusion in arguably the most difficult year out of the four most formative years of our lives. Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 at the University of Calgary felt like a constant battle of feeling wrongfully robbed of my first-year experience, yet recognizing the necessary sacrifice we all needed to make for the greater good. Now, as we enter a year full of higher expectations and even higher stakes, the title of a second-year student fails to register in my mind. 

While online education impacted many aspects of my life, I was astonished by the large mental block it created within my mind. Reflecting on the past academic year, I felt as though I completed it in auto-pilot mode. Although I have successfully completed 10 classes, the memories of the substandard Zoom lectures and mind-numbing breakout rooms have greyed over my initial feelings of excitement and accomplishment.

Neither the enthusiasm and pride I felt receiving my first A, nor the immense fear I felt speaking up in class have managed to create a meaningful impact within my mind. To be quite frank, skipping over the past year entirely would likely leave me with the same emotions I currently feel — anxiety. 

When it comes to preparing for the upcoming Fall 2021 semester, my self-doubt in my ability to live up to a second-year standard overshadows many of my thoughts. Potentially upsetting upper-year students with my lack of directional knowledge and hallway etiquette are obviously major concerns, but my fears also stem from harder classes, an uncharted social environment and everything being one step closer to real post-graduate life.

But in all honesty, I know that I — and every single one of my peers — will not only survive but also find ways to thrive in our campus environment. Despite the overpowering negative emotions I’m experiencing, the promise of a fresh start that this year will provide acts as a beacon of hope amidst the chaos of back-to-school sentiments. Regardless of how my previous year went, this is an opportunity to be a new student and ensure that in a year from now, my new memories will not be greyed out, but instead be bursting with colour. 

The biggest preparation for myself and other second-year students alike will not be the annual back-to-school shopping spree but instead taking the time to internally reflect on this past year. In 2020, the entire world had seemingly come to a standstill. Now, everyone is aware of the unusual circumstances of the incoming second-year class. While it is crucial to internalize the lessons learned this past year, a do-over doesn’t sound so bad. I

f you share my sentiment of still feeling like a fresh high school graduate, it is perfectly acceptable to treat this year as your first year. It is our first year on completely uncharted territory and the expectations will simply not be the same — and for what it’s worth, at least we have the reassurance of going into this year knowing not to ask questions that can be answered by reading the syllabus. 

Year One is a column about the first-year experience at the University of Calgary.  This column is part of our Voices section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.

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