During the winter of 2020, my first semester at Tufts, I often had doubts if I had picked the right school for me. COVID-19 restrictions were tight, and the tension of final exams swirled in the air. There were moments when a sleety, wintry mix whipped across the Residential Quad and it felt as though the beige cinderblock walls of my room were closing in on my wooden desk and creaky twin-XL bed. I would be lying if I told you I never thought of packing up my sweaters and taking the next flight back home. All I knew of a college education was awkward Zoom breakout rooms, silent, solo study sessions, and virtual office hours with professors I had never met in person.
Despite the damper of COVID-19 during my first year, I got back on the airplane ready to embark on my sophomore year with an open mind. When I returned to campus, I came back to a school I had never met. The dining halls teemed with students sharing meals on real ceramic plates, a luxury the 2020–21 school year could not afford us.
I spent my first night of the semester at a Latin Way party. The music thumped so loudly that it sent the RAs knocking; I had never been to a ‘college party’ before. The next day, when I went to the club fair, I was shocked: I had never seen that many Tufts students in my life. There were countless student organizations I had never heard of and opportunities I never could have imagined.
There are still moments when I wonder if Tufts was the right choice, as I listen to renowned professors speak on fascinating topics while seated at a desk so small it could be mistaken for a postage stamp. I’ve nearly twisted my ankle in potholes so deep and wide ducks could swim in them on a rainy day. And of course, I have shed several tears while attempting to register for classes.
But beyond any niche complaint, Tufts has taught me the meaning of community. I wake up each morning for breakfasts where I laugh so hard I nearly spit out my coffee and study sessions where I accomplish nothing more than the Wordle and the New York Times crossword, for I’m too distracted by enticing conversations with friends. I go on car rides with teammates, singing to music that makes the traffic melt into the background. I go to formals where pre-event picture smiles couldn’t begin to compare to the genuine expressions of joy that surface throughout the night. I have been engaged in opportunities I could never have foreseen, from being the teaching assistant for a yoga course and tutoring local elementary school students to riding bikes into the heart of Boston and rehearsing TikTok dances in the silent library. Even through the rocky start of a COVID-style first year, Tufts has become my home as a place of growth and connection with the people around me.