Coming to Fanshawe in Sept. 2020 was not at all what I expected. The college experience is something that everyone dreams of. All of the coming-of-age movies paint this amazing experience with parties, lots of friends, and going to class all day, every day. My college experience was nothing of the sort.

Coming into college was very isolating for me. I lived in residence, meaning I would be surrounded by a ton of students. That makes it super easy to make friends, right? Wrong. There were no in-person events, which I understand for everyone’s safety. All “ice-breaker” events were completely virtual. While I appreciate the effort to help students make friends, they didn’t work in my experience. I find with video calls of large amounts, everybody stays on mute and doesn’t converse. I am guilty of this as well, so I’m sure others feel my pain.

Most of my first year was spent alone in my residence building, only getting acquainted with my roommate and a few people in my program. It was a tough year for my mental health. It’s so hard to do everything remotely and have very little contact with others. Since residence reduced capacity to 50 per cent, I only had one roommate, so when she wasn’t home, I had nobody. It was honestly very hard.

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I don’t mean to be a pessimist, but for those who haven’t experienced the true COVID school year, that picture needs to be painted for you. It is not how it’s supposed to be, or what you see in movies.

I had the pleasure of working for Fanshawe’s radio station, 106.9 The X at the school over the summer, so that’s when things started to look up a bit more. I was able to get out of my room and go into the school, as long as public health guidelines were followed. I made some great friends over the summer and grew closer with those I had already been acquainted with. I started to enjoy my free time within London and the Fanshawe community because I had friends and connections to go and hang out with. The summer is also when my budding friendship with my roommate from first year started to grow. Towards the end of second semester, we signed a lease together and decided we were going to continue being roommates. We had two other girls placed with us. Now, as I write this article, I am surrounded by three lifelong friends, as we watch Netflix.

That sentence alone sums up how amazing my second (and graduating) year has been. Those budding friendships that grew, even in a time of fear and isolation are ones that I truly appreciate and love with all of my heart. Although it was hard, I wouldn’t trade anything for where I am now, other than wishing I had one more year with my friends. The world is starting to look normal again, meaning I am finally getting that college experience I dreamed of for a long time. I have made some amazing friends and my best friend I met on a first-year Facebook group after we found out we live close together and both are Fanshawe students. All of my friends are genuine and amazing people and that is definitely the biggest positive of my college experience.

For any students coming into college, or even those who have struggled in the past couple of years, just know things will be better and you will get that college experience you dreamed of. My second year has been full of running around reporting on different stories, early morning live newscasts for almost the first time since 2020, and meeting even more people and colleagues. Luckily for me, I have accepted an offer into Fanshawe’s Television News program, so although a lot of my friends are moving onto careers, I still have some sticking back with me and we will make the 2022/23 school year one for the books.

Now that we’ve made progress in beating COVID, my advice for you is to make the most of your college experience and study hard. Don’t miss out on those opportunities to spend time with your friends or meet new people, but don’t let your grades slip. Find that balance and you will have the time of your life.