It was the year of college without the college experience.
No packed stadiums and arenas. No intimate, small-group seminars or serendipitous encounters with strangers. No (or fewer) ill-advised nights of beer pong and partying.
It is not likely, if given the choice, that many college students would opt for the past year of distance, separation and perpetual wariness. Still, perhaps surprisingly, for many students, there was much that was gained, as well as much that was lost, in their unwanted suspension of campus life during the coronavirus pandemic.
Madison Alvarado, who graduated from Duke University this month, could no longer enjoy the camaraderie of painting herself blue and the giddy tumult of Duke basketball, which to her was as much about community as sport. As companies stopped hiring last summer, she snagged a summer internship only at the last minute, and was still job-hunting this year.
But she is grateful for an invaluable lesson in dealing with how unpredictable life can be.
“I was the person with a plan,” she said. “A lot of people are following a preset track — pre-med, financial analyst, Ph.D. The pandemic put that in stop mode. It’s made me realize that not knowing the next step doesn’t mean my world is going to crumble. I think it made me less scared to face the unknown.”
University of North Carolina, who started the year in a dormitory, but almost immediately had to move to an apartment off campus because of a Covid outbreak. “My life physically became a lot smaller, just this apartment.”
Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire, Samantha Mohammed, a junior, and her roommate were kicked out of college housing for violating quarantine by going grocery shopping a day or so after they returned from winter break, and they forfeited thousands of dollars in housing fees, Ms. Mohammed said.
She said they had thought their mandatory quarantine period had not yet begun, because it was still move-in time. She believes that another student recognized them and reported them.