My First Year of College—Again

By Sonam Rikha ‘24

Stress, excitement, and nervousness filled the air as sweaty sophomores dragged their luggage to their new home. As I watched Orientation staff and student workers enthusiastically wave their pom-poms while I walked toward my dorm, reality seemed to hit me. I’m here. I’m finally here. After an exhausting first year of Zoom university, I was finally able to start the over-glamorized college experience that I’d seen in the movies.

Although Move-In Day was everything but smooth––I didn’t have my room key, my parents couldn’t help me move in, I couldn’t figure out how to work my fan in my un-airconditioned room, and so on––it was exciting and new. And with that excitement came fear: Will I be able to make new friends? Oh no, have I forgotten how to socialize? How do I get around campus?

Sonam with 2 friends, all holding fro-yo
Me and my (Zoom) friends

It felt like I was in my first year of high school again, trying to navigate the abyss of socializing and finding my place on campus. Throughout Orientation, I continuously stumbled across classmates I had met virtually during my first year. It felt surreal to see the Zoom box images on my screen translate to actual human beings––many of whom were way taller than I expected. Since we were still very much in a pandemic, I often had to identify my former classmates based on the top half of their faces that weren’t covered by a mask. Sure, I might’ve awkwardly stared at a stranger for minutes trying to decipher if they were a friend or “foe,” but, hey, I’d take that any day over Zoom university.

3 dishes of yellow fro-yo
Free fro-yo at an orientation event

Even though I was concerned about making friends in person, it turned out that my Zoom classes actually helped a lot. In fact, I spent most of Orientation with my former Zoom classmates. Whether going down an inflatable slide or running to get frozen yogurt in 100-degree weather, Orientation pushed me in ways I’d never imagined. And while we sophomores don’t have the sponsor groups or mentorship that the first-years have, Orientation definitely dissolved my fears over community building within the class of 2024.