I stepped foot into my new house on campus after four months of being away. I’d never felt so relieved and yet so afraid to be in a place that should be so familiar. Going into the fall, nothing felt normal yet people kept insisting it was. Everyone around me seems to know more people, know more places and have twice as much energy as me. Sad to say, I no longer have the bold walk up to anyone, go-with-the-flow, no-fear energy I did my freshman year.
I went from 3 a.m. just-for-fun nights to 6:30 a.m. wake-up calls for my 8 o’clock on North Campus, cooking for myself every week and actually deciding what I’m going to wear every day. Even though I’m a sophomore, I consider myself a COVID-19 freshman. A COVID-19 freshman is a sophomore who either never had their experience on campus, or their experience on campus was so limited that they feel like a freshman this year. Many sophomores were kicked off campus in 2021 and have never experienced a campus filled with thousands of people. My knowledge of campus doesn’t extend beyond State Street, South University Avenue and the farmer’s market in Kerrytown. I hadn’t noticed how little I knew until freshmen were asking me for directions and I had no idea what they were talking about. I realize I’m not alone in this as many of my class of 2024 classmates have the same experience. I still haven’t met people who used to live down the hall from me in West Quad Residence Hall freshman year because of COVID-19. I feel like the “new kid” every time I try to introduce myself to someone new.
That “new kid” feeling is not at all unique — it’s something we all experience at one point or another. Well, this is that feeling, but ten times worse. Why? I should feel like I belong on this campus; it is my home. Yet, I only know a handful of people and get lost on campus as if it is my first time here. I feel like an imposter. Last year I wanted to go out and explore Ann Arbor, but my fear of COVID-19 prevented me from doing so. Since I could not explore, I would often only sit in my room or study in the Union instead of being outside socializing.
Now it’s September of my sophomore year, which means my birthday, the end of the first week of school and the first football game. Despite returning to the pre-pandemic inconveniences such as waking up early and actually putting clothes on, I was itching to attend my first game at The Big House. Standing in a crowd of maize and blue, I realized I hadn’t even learned the traditional songs (besides the fight song, of course). At the game I was alone and yet I was with 109,000+ people. How is that possible? We all want to belong to a community, but more than anything, we want to truly feel like we belong, rather than just being told we do. While I’ve been blessed to finally see a maize-out game in The Big House, it took me a while to remember this is where I’m supposed to be. Regardless of our age, if we are all walking the streets of Ann Arbor we belong to a larger community. I stopped feeling like an imposter by finding a more personalized range of smaller communities on campus, such as clubs and smaller friend groups that enhance my University of Michigan experience. We may be alone in our individual experiences, but we are definitely together on this crazy college ride.
MiC Columnist Simone Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.