WE’VE ALL SEEN the headlines – campuses closing down, students forced to move out, college classes go online. In Boston alone there are 35 colleges and universities, meaning that over the past month, as schools have been shutting their doors, thousands of students have migrated from the city to places all across the country and globe.
Now, with April winding down, students are feeling the weight of the changes thrust upon them. The transition from living on your own at school to living with your parents is an odd one. We’re at a weird, amorphous stage of life – not old enough to have a place of our own but not really belonging in our parents’ house anymore.
College is often marketed as a time to grow, experience life, and learn about yourself out on your own. Many students move away from home or study abroad to leave their home situations, push themselves out of their comfort zones, or just to experience something new. Suddenly, after all of that, many of us find ourselves back where we started.
In speaking with friends who made a jolting transition from a semester abroad to living at home, a common theme is that it is an emotional roller coaster. “On one side I am so fortunate to have had such an amazing experience, but on the other hand I am feeling very displaced and I really miss who I was in Paris,” said Caroline Kovatch, a Loyola student who came home in the middle of the night after the travel ban was announced in the United States. She said she gained a new level of independence studying abroad, but “that person doesn’t exist back at home.”
Looking at social media, YouTube, and Tik Tok, it’s clear that most college students are working through the same things right now. And they’re feeling like they have to first apologize for expressing those emotions. Many videos or posts begin with a sentence like “I know there are worse things happening in the world right now…”
Yes, there are. But life has changed drastically for our demographic and, as historians ask everyone to document their experience for the future, that’s something that we need to talk about.
Speaking from experience, time spent at home is usually precious. I try to fit in as much family time as possible in the short windows that I can. Now, it’s different. I, along with students across the country and world, am struggling to find a balance between enjoying the unlimited time I now have with my family and the solo life I was accustomed to at school.
The time at home stretches out in front of us with no clear end in sight. With the haunting buzz of colleges preparing for the possibility of not reopening in the fall, that’s a very real possibility. For my brother, who is trying to decide which college to commit to, there’s a possibility he may not go off to school at all.
Those of us in or about to enter college are often told these are supposed to be the best years of our lives. Even though staying at home during a pandemic is the right thing to do, it’s frustrating to be back living versions of our pre-college lives. No matter how much sourdough bread we bake or home workouts we do, a key piece of our development has been interrupted in a major way.
Lucia Hoffman is a student at Northeastern University on co-op with MassINC, the corporate parent of CommonWealth.