Carley Milne Servage is a graduate of North Dundas District High School. She is attending Trent University in Peterborough and is majoring in English Literature with a minor in Psychology. This is her impression of her first year at university during the pandemic.

Carley Milne Servage
Record Contributor

INKERMAN – My first year of university took place online, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I started my first semester on campus, hoping that I would be able to experience a fraction of what I had been expecting my first year to be, and finished my second semester at home, in my room, on a random Wednesday.

I made friends, in-person and virtually. I spent time with a select group of other first-year students, but it wasn’t quite what I had been looking forward to. There were parties that I was missing out on, opportunities to bond with a larger group of people that were taking place in unsafe circumstances. I knew I was doing the right thing by keeping my contacts limited, but I felt so left out of the university experience.

Normally, I would have been able to meet my professors face-to-face, sit in on lectures and seminars, and engage in conversation with my peers. I would have been surrounded by like-minded students in the courses that we had chosen to take in our first year of university. There would have been study groups, collective projects, meetings in person that would give post-secondary learning a whole knew meaning and significance. But classes were being held on zoom. Cameras weren’t on. When they were, they showed a very limited view of the people I was sharing my first year with.

Social media played a large part in communication within my classes, as I was able to talk to some of my classmates in group chats made to share ideas and questions. This still left me feeling alone, as so many of these people were all around the province, even the world, and I would not be able to actually meet them this year. We were spread out, taking our courses and chatting through multiple screens. I was on campus, looking through a screen at my classmates, missing that approachability that I look for in meeting a person face-to-face.

Gatherings were still happening, but I felt so isolated from them. Whether this was due to where my room was, how introverted I am in unfamiliar situations, or COVID alone is irrelevant. I missed out on that social atmosphere that movies, books, and role models have raved about. This is not simply about the parties.

This is about walking out of my residence room into a crowded campus of students of all years, heading to class, to lunch, to study. I chose my campus for its beauty, its outdoor presence, which was not being filled. I began to resent its emptiness.

Moving home for second semester brought me back to my family, a house with more rooms that made me feel less closed in inside my home, and freedom and familiarity with my area. It also came with a COVID close contact scare, more loneliness with my friends away at their own campuses, and less privacy.

I do know one thing: being home was a much better choice for my mental health, and with the rising COVID outbreaks on campus, I know I made the right decision to come home when I did.

I have met more friends since moving home, some that I have never met in person. I have a house with a group of people who I have been talking to online for months, and I am extremely excited to move back to Peterborough to meet them and live with them.

I have come to realize that as much as I wanted it to be, first year was not meant to be my year. I was able to finish – and pass – my courses, and stay self-motivated while being introduced to university through a screen.

This leaves the possibility of in-person classes, whenever they are reintroduced, being a new university first.

Firsts that I was looking for this year, those experiences that I feel I missed out on, are still waiting for me. The world hasn’t paused, and these experiences may not be the same as everyone else’s, but I, along with the rest of the world, need to look ahead, beyond the limits of COVID, and remember that not everything happens like we expect it to, and that’s okay. We will find ways to adapt to the differences, and whenever life returns to some semblance of normal, we will appreciate it all so much more.