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Once again, a lot has changed over the past 365 days

We deserve to enjoy the experience of being students at this University

<p>Mario Rosales is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.</p>

Mario Rosales is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

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One year ago I wrote a column about how much life as a student had changed just over the course of a year. I brought up the memories I had as a first-year and contrasted them with what we were experiencing then as students attending classes via Zoom. Now, as an older and — hopefully — wiser student, I’d like to once again remind everyone where we were 365 days ago, and once again reflect on the significance of the changes that have occurred over the past year. 

Though challenging in many different ways and to various degrees for everyone, the last 12 months still seem to have flown by, and part of me cannot believe that it was just last year that I was settling in for my first 8 a.m. class over Zoom. Now, I’m walking to my 8 a.m. — I never have any luck with getting my required classes at sensible hours. On one particular short but nostalgia-filled walk, memories of my first year suddenly filtered back into my head as familiar but somewhat forgotten acquaintances from the previous year exchanged smiles with me on the way to class.

Then after finishing my last discussion section on Thursday evening, I met my friends for dinner at the packed Virginian. This prompted me to think back to the FaceTime dinners I had with my friends and family while I spent two weeks in isolation with COVID-19 during the spring semester. Finally, I made my way back to my apartment to meet up with my roommates and strolled down the bustling sidewalk that was filled with students of all ages enjoying each other’s company. I then thought about all the time upperclassmen missed with their friends last year — and how that’s something they will never get back.

Thankfully, the change from last year to this year is night and day, and I believe the statement in my column from last August has always remained true — the experience of attending the University is one that revolves around the people. 

But now I’d like to add an addendum to that claim — over the past three weeks of in-person classes, I’ve realized that this experience is also irreplaceable. For example, where else in the world are you going to walk around every day amongst 17,000 other students and have someone to wave at or catch up with wherever you walk? 

That’s one thing that I forgot about last year — nothing can brighten up your day like walking through Grounds and just running into people you know. The friends, and in some cases families, that we’ve built here are the reasons why this school means as much as it does to us — and this is why I am advocating for a slight change in our perspectives this semester. 

Now, I have always been a proponent of putting academics first. However, this semester, I think we should squeeze every last second out of being with the people that we love and the people that make us want to wake up for that abominably early 8 a.m. class — I write that even after my previous column, which explains how I woke up at 2:45 a.m. for most of the summer. I’m not necessarily saying that school comes second — rather, I just want to emphasize how important it is that we get out of our comfort zones and get to know our peers once again.

The past 18 months have deprived current second-, third- and fourth-years of the true University experience. Therefore, we should feel free to let go just a little bit. Maybe that means making a point to attend every single home football game or mandating weekly dinners with friends at Boylan Heights or Crozet Pizza. Whatever it is, remember that almost everything is better while in the company of loved ones. 

And finally, to the beloved first-years — take it all in and meet as many people as you can. There is nothing quite like being a student on Grounds, and I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. So grab a roommate, friend, acquaintance or someone you met five seconds ago, and enjoy what in-person life on Grounds has to offer.

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