Written by Abbey Kolf

Adjusting to the New Reality

It seems like just yesterday I was celebrating the new year with my family on vacation, my only cares in the world being about seemingly trivial things now: my spring break trip with friends in a few months, my resolution to use less single waste plastic that I swore would stick this time, and the Wisconsin Badgers (my parents alma mater) winning the Rose Bowl football game the next day (I should have known where 2020 was headed when they ended up losing). Little did I know, half way through the second semester of my sophomore year at college I would have to pack up everything and finish out the year back in my hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah along with the rest of my family of five due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

At first, the complete absurdity and newness of being a college student from home was not so bad, and maybe even a bit exciting. I got to spend some rare time with my whole family, have home cooked meals every night, and have an excuse to not leave the house all day (a dream for an introvert like me). This mindset soon faded once it became apparent that having three young adults trying to attend school virtually and a parent working from home all under one roof was going to be quite the challenge and would last longer than anticipated. While wifi issues were constant and too much time together led to petty arguments, my family and I eventually adjusted to the new “normal”.

Moving Forward into more Uncertainty…

After being home for the last 5 months, I am now preparing to head back across the country to start my junior year of college on campus (shout out Villanova University). It is safe to say that it is going to be a semester unlike any other. The majority of my classes will continue to be online, social interactions and events will be sparse, and masks will (hopefully) be worn everywhere.

While I am excited to see my friends and be back on the campus that I know and love, I am also overwhelmed. I’m someone who has always hated traveling into uncharted territory. There are so many unknowns about the rest of my year: Are we going to be sent home again if things go south? Am I going to be miserable and want to kill my roommates? Will college even be fun anymore? It has been hard to stay optimistic about what’s next when unanswerable questions like these are repeatedly brought to mind.

…And Looking Back

As the time with my family in Utah during this pandemic is coming to a close, I am reflecting on how my life has changed over the past five months. While it is easy to dwell on all of the parts that the COVID-19 outbreak may have taken away, I have found that there are a lot of amazing things in my life that were made possible because of the unfortunate circumstances.

Sure, I lost a few months of making memories with my college friends and cannot look forward to having a traditional college experience this fall, but I got to spend (probably too much) time with the people that I love who I normally don’t get to see during the school year, including my pet cat whom I adore.

The places I could go and things I could do have been limited because of social distancing guidelines, but these limitations pushed me to get outside more. I fell back in love with the omnipresent natural beauty of my home state through scenic drives up the canyon, hikes in the majestic mountains, and watching the vivid sunsets from my local park. I am reminded of where my intense love for the environment and devotion to protect it started.

I missed out on a summer of working in D.C., but going virtual gave me the opportunity to join the Empowher BA Women’s Alliance where I made lasting connections with other inspiring young women. I became a trained Climate Reality Leader, furthering my knowledge of climate change and how to fight it. I even interned with CCAN, an unknown nonprofit to me when I started but which I’m now passionate about supporting.

Moral of the story, 2020 may have turned life completely upside down and taken a lot of things from us all. However, as cliche as it may sound, it is important to recognize the challenges as opportunities for growth and ask yourself: What has this year given me?

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