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Call me sentimental, but it’s hard not to be nostalgic this time of year. As classes wind down and friends leave for their hometowns, I find myself reflecting on the experiences and memories I’ve created. Of course, there’s always the option to swallow these emotions and look forward to next year, but I hardly feel inclined to do so. No two consecutive years are ever the same, much like no two snowflakes are ever alike (or so they say).

As a sophomore, these particular past eight months for me were much different than anything I have ever experienced. Given that I was completely virtual from my house as a freshman, I wasn’t sure what to expect upon my arrival in August 2021. I knew it couldn’t be the same as high school — a notion that’s largely proven true, with some exceptions.

As quickly as I could put my bags down, I was introduced to campus life. If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far from being on campus, it’s that there’s rarely a moment when you aren’t busy. Everywhere I look, people are on a mission. Some are on the phone, squeezing in a call with their parents. Others are shoving a sandwich down their throat in between classes. The rest of us are heading to destinations unknown, yet we’re bonded by a similar, intense ambition.

Along the way, we’re learning about ourselves. For example, I love Bopjib and recently discovered how much I enjoy playing racquetball. Granted, this may seem basic, but neither of those opportunities exist where I’m from. On this note, I am also grateful for the pita and toum at Jerusalem Garden. Absolutely delicious.

We’re also learning about each other. I joined a few clubs and even a professional fraternity. I am now fortunate enough to say that I have met so many different people with different interests, goals, hobbies and the like. Not to mention, I immediately realized how aware we all are of each other. I’ll give you an example: one of my first interactions this year was with a graduating senior. About 20 minutes into our conversation — mind you, we had never met before — she promptly told me that I was a “50-year-old trapped in a 20-year-old’s body.” For those of you who know me, you understand that this is entirely true. I was, and still am, stunned at how fast this person made that discernment. 

Oddly enough, coming into this year, I was worried about exactly that type of interaction. I really hadn’t met anyone through Zoom classes or Zoom clubs, and I was in a single dorm room. I didn’t have many options given how 2020-21 played out. As perhaps a far-fetched goal, I told myself I wanted to cram two years of college — freshman and sophomore year — into one. Classes, friends, football games, whatever — I just wanted to get back to business. I craved the energy of passing people on the way to class and going out on the weekends. I missed it. I needed it. 

Whether I lived up to that expectation or not, I suppose, is yet to be determined. I will say, however, that when my head hits the pillow each night, I sleep rather soundly. I attribute the amount of fun I’ve enjoyed this year to the aforementioned reasons and, for the majority of the time, the happiness I receive from simply, physically being in one of my favorite places in the world. I’m sure many of you would agree. 

Thus, for me, perhaps the most instrumental takeaway from this year is how much I value connection. I didn’t acknowledge how important it is for me to be in sync with place, purpose and people. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I’d make it back socially. I was in a 1.5-year hangover from COVID-19, traveling from my room to my kitchen and occasionally to the golf course or a friend’s place. Turns out, I did make a return — we’re just all different people than we were pre-2020. 

Perhaps this column may seem obvious or bland, but I can assure you that it is not. I write this from a place of gratitude and rebirth, feeling more energized by my surrounding environment than ever before. I realize my narrative is likely different than most, but I think we can agree that this year has encouraged us to appreciate the moment, more so than ever before. For all of us at this university, we’ve endured the good, the bad and the ugly this year, and I believe we deserve to celebrate our readjustment to ‘normal’ life. It may not have always been easy, but it has most certainly been rewarding. 

And finally, to the seniors: thank you for setting such a strong precedent for us underclassmen to follow. You will be missed. 

Sam Woiteshek is an Opinion Columnist & can be reached at