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I took my first steps into college fully believing that I would experience a full year on campus —  the next thing I know I’m packing my belongings that I had rushed to buy before move-in day and realized I was moving out three and a half years earlier than expected. Similarly, Nickie Pauer, a first-year business major of San Diego State University, shared kindred spirits as I do amongst this huge change in our college careers. “It’s definitely ruined my sleep schedule and my work ethic. It also caused my first year to end abruptly, forcing me to leave people early that I would’ve liked to spend more time with and get to know better,” stated Pauer. 

Everyone is now missing out on experiences once considered a given. For high school students, specifically seniors, their fantasies of walking to the cadence of “Pomp and Circumstance” on their school football field as their graduation gowns flow with the wind has a potential outlook of an uneventful online experience. Arguably, more importantly, many schools have canceled the long-awaited high school prom. High school students’ dreams of dressing up and taking Instagram-worthy photos have been knocked out the window.

To put things in a brighter light, the SAT and all AP tests for this year have been moved to an online platform for students. Yery Joo, a student of South High School in Torrance, shared the effects of this global pandemic on a senior: “We always say that we had school but when it’s taken away from us, it’s hard. And also with stocking up with supplies and how hard it is to actually only stay at home, it can be very difficult.”

Students are not the only demographic that the virus has been detrimental to. Parents, specifically my father, was relieved from his job due to this global pandemic. I sensed panic and saw that we were automatically facing financial burdens, such as paying the apartment rent and other bills (electric, phone, credit card debt and so on). Although our leaders on both the federal and state level claim there are programs to help families in need, there are requirements that need to be met to receive help of any kind. On the other hand, landowners and apartment managers have a mortgage to keep up with that rely on their tenants’ timely payment of a certain contracted amount. 

Personally, as a first-year student at UCR I pictured my spring quarter to be more or less like my fall and winter quarters: struggle to wake up for my morning classes, excitedly rush to the dining hall to eat with friends despite the frequent long lines, drag myself to the next class, walk to Rivera Library to study, go to late-night mock trial practices, and do it all over again the next day.

I can’t say much about residential life in Pentland Hills and Aberdeen-Inverness (AI), since I resided in the Lothian Residential Hall. However, I can imagine that it was less of a ghost town before the coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic. The dining halls were filled with overlapped conversations, busy chefs and part-time students behind a steaming buffet and there was always a small crowd hovering over the soft-serve machine. Lot 15 was full of parked cars, annoying pedestrians, pizza delivery trucks and Uber and Lyft drivers dropping people off from the Metrolink Station. I also remember the Glen Mor Market always being packed with lines for Savor and Starbucks.

Ever since President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to combat the coronavirus, residential life couldn’t have been more difficult to say farewell to. 

My recent trip back to UCR to pick up my things left me stunned. Aforementioned, the campus couldn’t have been more like a ghost town. The familiar faces I used to see working at the RSO were no longer there. The residents I would run into while walking along the dining halls were nowhere to be seen. Glen Mor, once a place where I struggled to find a place to sit was completely bare and lifeless. What was once a place that smelled of coffee and comfort foods smelled of Clorox wipes and bleach. I was greeted by an unfamiliar employee behind the Starbucks counter who was working alone. I turned my way to Savor and bought my last meal at Glen Mor as I handed my R’Card to another unfamiliar employee.

As a first-year college student that has lived an incomplete on-campus experience, I would describe it bittersweet. Staying at home with my family was something I looked forward to, but having to leave behind a priceless college experience feels as if I left a few loose ends behind.