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It doesn’t feel like second year

Reflections from a distraught nursing student

Zoya Zahid is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.
Zoya Zahid is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

Despite all of the changes to the school year as a result of COVID-19, I was really excited to move back to Charlottesville and begin my second year. As a nursing student, the start of second year meant a lot more than no longer being the new class on Grounds. Second year meant actually feeling like a nursing student — from receiving our engraved stethoscopes to wearing scrubs whilst going to clinical labs.

The first few weeks felt just like that — there was excitement in the air as my friends and I walked to our first labs decked out in our nursing gear. I sent pictures of my neon yellow stethoscope to my family, as if it was a way of saying “See, I really am in nursing school!” In a time of global uncertainty — when not much has felt real — this felt real, and I clung to that. 

However, this quickly faded. Whilst I was still excited to be learning and practicing clinical skills, that initial high I had felt was no longer there. Compared to how my upperclassmen friends had described their second-year experience, it felt like something was missing. 

Sure, it felt great to reach those monumental moments of getting our stethoscopes and wearing scrubs for the first time — but not in the way it should have. For example, taking pictures in our scrubs was not as big of an affair as it has been in the past due to the limitations of staying in our COVID-19 bubbles. As of right now, we don't even know if we’ll be having our white coat ceremony — an event during Family Weekend where second-year nursing students are donned white coats by loved ones to symbolize the beginning of a career of compassion and care. It is a pivotal moment of my undergraduate nursing career that I — alongside my peers — have been looking forward to since October of our first year. 

I just can’t help but think that this doesn’t feel like second year. At first, I thought that I was feeling this way due to the way my first year was unexpectedly cut short. In March, I felt like I had finally acclimated to my life in Charlottesville — to have that taken away so abruptly made me feel like I barely had it in the first place. 

Thus, coming back, I struggled with moving away from the first-year mindset of trying to navigate through adjusting to life in Charlottesville. It’s easy for me to still feel that way as life outside of class has been limited — late night food runs, and Friday nights out are virtually nonexistent given coronavirus. 

Similarly, it feels like I am adjusting into college academics for the first time again. The study habits, organization and schedule I developed last fall seem barely applicable to virtual school. At times, it feels like the combination of my Google Calendar, planner and to-do lists are not sufficient in keeping myself organized. 

In light of this global period of chaos, I have come to realize that the college experience stems far beyond the classroom. I find myself thinking about all of the times last year I turned down spending time with friends due to the amount of schoolwork I had to do. 

As a result of that, there are so many classic Charlottesville things that I have yet to experience, whether that be a hike at Humpback Rock or watching an event at the Paramount in the Downtown Mall. While I can still venture outdoors, some things — like watching a movie in public or even eating inside of a local restaurant I have yet to try — pose a risk with coronavirus that I am not yet ready to expose myself to. 

I would hate to seem ungrateful during this time. Please, don’t get me wrong — I am beyond thankful to be back in Charlottesville and able to attend my in-peron labs. However, I can’t help but feel like something is missing and if I let myself think about it, I realize a lot is missing. 

Over the last few months, I think we have all lost much of what used to give us a feeling of normalcy of life. I am realizing more and more that things may not return back to that normal I know — normal is going to look different, a lot different. As difficult as it is, I am trying to place emphasis on the idea of different rather than missing. 

Maybe I just need to come to terms with the changes being made in what we have all come to call these unprecedented times. Things aren’t missing, things are just different — second year is not missing something, it is just different. I am trying to be okay with feeling differently, and I think that is something we can all try to do right now. 

Zoya Zahid is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com.

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