Returning to Class: Month One

By: Laura Romero, Fulfillment Fund Student and Series Guest Blogger

I’ve been at Columbia for a month now. It’s felt so much longer than this, though. Since arriving in New York, I’ve been homesick, which makes sense; I’m undergoing so many adjustments and resets all in a one-month time frame. I’ve found myself seeking comfort from my new friends who remind me that what I’m feeling is such a universal experience. The last time you heard from me, I was wrapping up my orientation week, and now, I’ve simply been busy with my academics. All of my classes are in person, and while I feel grateful to finally be back in a classroom setting after almost two years of a virtual one, the shift has been a process for me.

My first week of classes was stressful, which is such a cliche thing that every college student says, but it truly feels this way. It was a shopping period, which meant I could attend all of my classes already on my schedule and also attend the classes I had on my wishlist. I kept making changes to my schedule because some classes, although interesting, just didn’t feel like something I would enjoy doing. The most important thing for me this semester was to choose classes I felt comfortable in, and classes that would ultimately give me a glimpse into my potential majors. Compared to high school, where our schedules are mostly predetermined because of graduation requirements, I never felt like I was able to make a personal choice of what I wanted to study. College has given me this freedom to decide, and while it’s a responsibility that needs to be taken seriously, it’s also a chance to explore other opportunities. I don’t feel confined here, and that’s the freedom I was hoping I’d find. 

I don’t know if it feels normal to attend my classes yet. It’s still odd walking into a classroom and seeing everyone with a mask on. Covid cases at Columbia are rising, and there have been stricter restrictions implemented because of this, but at this point, it should be common sense for everyone to be wearing their masks, so as long as not only you but your friends, take the necessary precautions, things should be fine. 

I’m taking four classes this semester. Two of my courses are required for first years, as part of Columbia’s Core Curriculum, but my other two courses are related to my possible majors. My classes have been a surprise. I think I was still somewhat expecting these classes to resemble my high school ones because it was hard to wrap my head around the idea that things were actually going to be different here. Columbia is nothing like my high school. I’ve learned an incredible amount, in a matter of three weeks. I’m still adjusting to the workload, especially to the number of readings I have to complete daily and weekly, but it keeps me busy, and that’s what I came here for. 

Besides academics, I do try my best to have a life outside all of that. It’s a difficult practice to separate school from my personal life just because on some days, all I want to do is be in the library or my lounge doing work, or I just want to hang out with my friends. Or I go to the library with my friends, and we end up talking most of the time! It’s a work-in-process, but I know I’m not the only one trying to work through it, so I don’t feel pressured to have a set boundary just yet. 

My friends here are the best part. I found my community before arriving at Columbia because of this summer bridge program I, and other incoming first-year students participated in, so I don’t feel as lost in my social life. Dorm life has also been a nice experience. I live in a suite-like setting, and my roommate and suitemates are really sweet and funny, so I don’t feel suffocated or unwelcomed. 

Life in the ‘big city’ is kind of rubbing off on me, but again, kind of. I think I’m getting used to how loud New York can get, especially at night, when I’m trying to sleep, but I still miss Los Angeles. It’s getting way too cold here for me, so I think New York is going to have to wrap up their fall and winter plans because I don’t know if my L.A.-self is going to survive the snow. 

Overall, I think I’m doing ok after being here for a month. Things still feel weird at random times, but lately, I’ve been having better days. I just keep reminding myself that adjustment takes time, and there’s no need to rush that. 

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