Hannah Yoder is a sophomore international studies major.
The USF class of 2024 is not your typical group of college students. After having spent our entire freshman year spread across the world, moving onto campus and finally feeling like a real college student has been quite a strange experience.
I had never stepped foot on the Hilltop and spent over a year anticipating the move all the way from my small hometown in Wisconsin. Finally arriving in San Francisco was overwhelming, to say the least. Everything felt weirdly familiar, yet at the same time, I felt like a complete stranger. I had no idea what to expect.
Attending USF’s Second Year Welcome Week turned out to be the perfect cure for feeling lost and clueless in my new environment. USF hosted a number of activities for sophomore students from Aug. 14 to Aug. 23, ranging from informational meetings, trips around the city, and entertaining activity nights. Before coming to campus, some of my main anxieties were about meeting people, getting comfortable, and making USF feel like home; I was grateful that the University anticipated students’ needs so well. I was able to get a headstart on meeting new friends, learning my way around campus, and mastering the Muni before being thrown into the hectic schedule of classes.
Despite feeling welcomed at the start of the semester, I’ve also partially felt like a freshman, struggling with feeling like I’m a college student who doesn’t quite know how to be a college student. Even the smallest things like stumbling upon the many options in the cafeterias, learning how to use the dorm laundry machines, wandering through the library to find a good study spot, and attending in-person college classes for the first time are all completely new to me. Yet the beauty of finally becoming a part of USF’s on-campus community is that every other sophomore student seems to be facing the same feeling of disorientation. After a year of isolation, everyone seems especially eager to reconnect and learn about others’ unique experiences.
Also unique to the class of 2024 is that a majority of us are living in the new dorm, Lone Mountain East, myself included. The brand new suite-style dorms provide its sophomore residents with their own kitchen and bathrooms to be shared with their three suitemates. Living there has been a highly enjoyable experience, and I feel lucky to have grabbed one of the limited spots available in on-campus housing and in this building, especially with room occupancy being topped off at doubles due to COVID-19. However, living up on Lone Mountain often makes me feel a bit distanced from the rest of campus.
For one, having my own kitchen and lounge space doesn’t require me to wander down to the heart of campus as often to use the dining hall or even just to hang out. I also don’t have any of my classes on the lower campus, so when I do go down there, I am often surprised by the amount of activity going on, feeling as if I am not a part of it. I think that living steps away from the energy of main campus is a crucial part of the freshman dorm experience that I missed out on. The increased independence that a suite-style dorm grants is ideal for students who aren’t first-years, but also turns it into a strange, sometimes isolating experience for students who did not get the typical freshman dorm experience of having to explore campus to grab breakfast and find quiet places to study.
To remedy this feeling of isolation on Lone Mountain, take on one of the biggest challenges of being a college student: push yourself out of your comfort zone. Remember the options lower campus offers and see what activities and events you can find advertised across campus. If you don’t want to venture across Turk Street, know that you’re probably not the only one feeling alone. Be brave and talk to someone you see hanging out in a public space.
It’s incredible to finally be on campus and living out the college experience after such a painfully long wait. This semester may still not be a “normal” experience, as masks are required, some classes are still online, and there are strict rules about visitors in the dorms, but while I work through my anxiety about how much more of my college career will end up being affected by this pandemic, I will absolutely not take any of it for granted.