I tossed and turned on the night of March 8, trying to fall asleep on my oddly comfortable twin XL bed. It was the Sunday after an announcement was sent out explaining that the start of spring 2020 would be online due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Unsure of what to do, I called my mom. After a tough conversation, we came to the conclusion that it would be best for me to return home. But “home” means something different to me now. That night at 2 a.m., I booked a 6 a.m. flight to LAX. As I scrambled to clean my room and pack, the many beautiful memories I had at Stanford raced through my mind. Freshman year was like a juice box: sweet and short-lived.
The thought of someday arriving at move-in both haunted and excited me the summer after senior year of high school. Unsure of what to expect, I tried to prepare myself for the new chapter in my life. After turning a corner and approaching my dorm, I was greeted by some very kind people and “Han Soto” written on the outside of the lounge. I thought to myself “Yup this is it. Chewie, we’re home.”
From the spirited halls of Soto to the simple encounters I had with friendly faces around campus, the supportive communities I participated in at Stanford were crucial to my growth thus far. I had the privilege of partaking in relationships that helped me grow. Whether it was working through the tedious Math 51 problem sets with a friend or just singing at the top of my lungs with my lovely roommate, I felt like I was where I was meant to be.
Unfortunately, it feels like my growth plateaued on that eventful night in March. Just as I felt like I was starting to learn who I was and what it meant to be a college student, I found myself packing my bags. Distance learning at home almost feels like I’ve regressed. As I struggle to manage my time and remain focused, I find myself back at what seems like square one. Unable to knock on the doors of my friends, I feel isolated at times. Life in my childhood home feels very different after savoring the sweet taste of freedom in college. One can only be so free back at their childhood home, and I long for the day we can return to campus.
Even as I sit at home and try to process the overwhelming state of affairs, I find solace in the efforts of the Stanford community. Organizations’ hard work to foster community through these turbulent times inspires me and provides me with a sense of hope. The individuals behind these efforts restore my optimism toward the future. It is with this hope and optimism that I look forward to the day that the conditions we are in begin to improve.
As I reminisce on my juice-box-of-a-freshman-year, I have a new appreciation for Stanford and the experiences I had. I’m past the stage of remorse and thinking about what I could have done differently. My biggest take-away with this experience is to be more intentional with the use of my time and energy; to spend more time and energy doing the things that matter to me and to truly be present in the moment.
My less-than-two-thirds-freshman-year was not easy, but it was easily the best experience I ever had. I am thankful for the memories I made on campus and look forward to making more.