The class of 2022, which I am a part of, is the only class at Shippensburg University that had a full year of a “normal” college experience.
I was 19 when I left Shippensburg University for spring break my sophomore year. I am 21 now, a student leader and a senior in college. I have changed an incredible amount since that pre-pandemic time.
Whether you had a year of a normal college experience or not you have overcome some of the most intense challenges of the decade and perhaps of your lifetime so far. You are different and you are strong.
On top of the normal struggles of a college student — family, relationships, social life, academics, extracurriculars, car troubles, finance, jobs — we have had to endure the fear and anxiety from the pandemic that has claimed more than 600,000 American lives to date, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
I’m weary, and I bet you are too. Don’t mistake that to mean I’m not excited, I am looking forward to my senior year and a school year with in-person classes and a full social life.
But it’s important to remember many of us were strained from pushing past our limits time and time again last school year.
No matter if you have spent the last year and a half in high school or at SU, you have grown, changed and struggled. But you are here and still standing.
That means something, it is a testament to your hard work and your determination. Even if you don’t feel like you’ve done something significant or grown, I promise that you have – just by making it through this past year and a half.
As we turn toward what may very well be another year with masks and social distancing, we will continue to be under pressure from the pandemic.
It will be hard, I won’t deny that, but I think there is more opportunity to recover from burnout this semester. We have in-person classes that will provide easy ways to introduce ourselves to new people. We can meet up (as long as we wear masks) in our favorite hangout spots across campus.
This socialization with reduced fear of spreading the virus (since vaccinations are available) will be one of the most valuable assets to our mental health. Even if you attended therapy regularly, spoke on FaceTime or Zoom every day to friends and family or had the chance to travel in the past year and half, our mental health has been assaulted.
Trying to better mental well being — reducing anxiety, battling depression, combatting insomnia and many other mental health issues — was incredibly hard in a socially distanced and online world.
So I encourage you reach out to your friends even if it’s just stopping to talk for a few minutes while you pass in the quad. Grab lunch with them or chat up that new classmate who sits next to you in class.
Getting out of bed is an incredibly hard task somedays you wake up and you can feel the ache of exhaustion in your bones. But you get up and grind yourself down some more. This year we have the opportunity to socialize and fellowship in person, even if you have to wear a mask. That is far better than the limited (limited to what was safe pre-vaccine) options of last school year.
It might hurt, but try to get yourself outside, the results of spending just half and hour with some friend outside of your dorm might surprise you.
Get yourself outside. Join in new activities and participate in a renewed academic life that has been missing for the past year and a half. The results of spending time with some friends outside your dormroom or apartment might surprise you.