A few weeks ago, I returned to Charlottesville for the first time since early March to move out of my old apartment. I’d lived in the same place for the past two years and shared a room with my close friend, so I knew it’d feel bittersweet to leave a place with such fond memories. My mom and younger sister volunteered to help me haul the furniture to my new apartment, and we piled into the car as it began to drizzle. I was eager to return to Charlottesville after my longest stretch of time away from the University while a student, and my sister was excited to visit for one of the first times since she learned she’d been admitted to the Class of 2024.
The drive felt identical to the dozens before it, so I began to subconsciously expect that Charlottesville would look the same as it always does when I’ve returned from each break. However, the combination of incoming rain and quieter restaurants left the Corner nearly empty — a completely different sight from the one I had seen before I left for spring break with students chatting in clusters as they walked up and down University Ave. I had taken for granted that returning to Charlottesville had always felt like returning to a place frozen in time, and it finally sunk in that the place I had left in March was much different from the one I saw that day.
In spite of the heavy lifting and moving that I encouraged my younger sister to help with, my sister was in a good mood just from being at the University. When we took a break for lunch, she raced off to Mincer’s to get T-shirts for herself and her roommate, and she was eager to get takeout from new restaurants. As we toured my new apartment, my sister pointed out the kitchen where we could make Sunday dinners, the porch where we could sit on warm afternoons and the TV where we could watch sports.
Through her eyes, each place in Charlottesville was a new tradition we could experience together. As I looked and saw all the pandemic-caused change around me, I began to worry, but my sister didn’t share that same anxiety — she was just happy to finally be there. It was then that I realized that, like my sister, I would be coming to a new school this fall — one that will have adapted to the changes brought on by COVID-19.
The day after I visited Charlottesville, President Ryan sent an email outlining the plan for our return this fall and the new changes that would take place. With socially-distanced learning and socializing with my friends, peers and professors, my final year will be significantly different from what I had imagined — and just like my old apartment, it will be impossible to return to the U.Va. of last spring.
Nevertheless, my sister’s first-year energy reminded me that change and opportunity go hand-in-hand, and that just because this year will be a different experience, it doesn’t mean it will be a lesser one. Even though my routines formed for the past three years at U.Va. probably won’t be the same, I can try to use this time to try and recognize how I can improve my lifestyle. Just like how my sister is ready to throw herself into a new life at U.Va., I should intentionally adopt a similar perspective to make the most of my situation.
It’s safe to say that I have no idea what life will be like as we go back to school this fall. All I know for sure is that my previous U.Va. life will have to stay in March, and that the only way to ensure that is by approaching this fall with an open mind and a willingness to adapt. Like my sister, who won’t know what a pre-COVID U.Va. experience is like, I’ll find ways to embrace this modified U.Va. and live more consciously and appreciatively than I have in the past. While my final year will likely be different from what I’ve expected, it hasn’t lost any of its potential.
Josie Sydnor is a Life Columnist at The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.