The development of the pandemic over the last two years will always hold a lasting effect on students. Whether studying in high school, undergraduate or graduate degree programs, the impacts and adjustments to our lives changed the meaning of learning for the last two years. Although Covid now seems less of a worrisome disease than it did before, it still affects many people in our society. Although the situation deescalated, my worries now include big lecture halls with hundreds of students and busy dining halls with no room to walk. Despite the fears of returning on campus, I realized that many opportunities and fun experiences also awaited me at UCLA. Living in a dorm, meeting new people and enjoying the “college experience” as we know it began once again. As a first-year student exiting the pandemic, UCLA developed into my first opportunity as an in-person student again. I could not contain my excitement and nerves.
My first quarter at UCLA, with classes almost back to normal, created an unforgettable experience.
After my initial acceptance to UCLA, my eagerness to begin the new quarter grew as time went on. I waited patiently until my new student orientation and the day where I could sign up for my fall quarter classes. I counted down the days until I would receive my dorm assignment along with the roommates, I would spend the next year with. My summer went by exceedingly fast, and due to the UC quarter system, I started school a month later than most of my friends did. Finally, the day came to move into my classic triple dorm.
“Click this link to find out your room assignment for the year, along with the contact info for your two roommates.”
I met my roommates during the first week of the quarter as I entered my dorm room with my luggage of clothes and toiletries for the week. The first couple of days seemed awkward with my new roommates. I believe meeting new people and living with them for an entire year made us all seem closed off. The pandemic and quarantining for almost two years made this even worse, as now we developed anti-social tendencies. Nonetheless, we all put in effort to develop a close-knit friendship. To kick start our three-musketeer friend group, we went to see Smile in theaters. An incredibly terrifying movie with hundreds of jump scares, we hid behind each other laughing and crying at the same time. We spent more and more time together, from grabbing a quick breakfast or gossiping late at night about people in our dorm hall. My friendships outside of my roommates flourished due to the 200+ students in each lecture hall. The experience proved different than the last two years of online school. As the quarter continued, I discovered that a tiny dorm and huge lecture halls allowed me to meet some of the best people at UCLA.
The three classes I began during my first quarter at UCLA completed my required general education credits and exposed me to highly rated professors. Jerusalem: Holy City, Art and Archaeology of Ancient Greece and Introduction to Communications constituted my class load. The intensity for all three classes remained calm at first, but as the quarter progressed, they created a more challenging dynamic. Going from an online school environment with less than 100 students to a college campus with over 40,000 undergraduate students made me adjust more slowly than others.
Five weeks officially passed, and midterm week crept up behind me.
As I used to go to a school with a semester paced system, I could not get used to the idea of a quarter system. Time flew incredibly fast during the quarter, and I did not realize how little time the quarter held. Although one of my classes did not require any exams, the other two created enough studying to make up for it. I found myself studying every day, only taking breaks to grab food down at The Study. The 30-minute wait for a sandwich or pizza made me feel incredibly anxious since it took precious time away from my studies. After quickly eating, I went back to focusing on my work. Luckily, I found a system to memorize material that worked best for me, which allowed me to pass both of my midterms. My lecture material genuinely sparked my interest in all classes, and my TA’s made my experience even better than I imagined. Transitioning back to studying, taking notes and paying attention to lectures rather than hearing my professor ramble over a computer proved harder than I thought.
Throughout my time studying and attending classes, I began to also look for new internships. I spent the days where I did not have any class on LinkedIn or Handshake searching for opportunities that seemed beneficial for my resume, as well as fun and intriguing. I needed something that allowed me to relax from my schoolwork and have fun doing what I love, whether the position remained online or in person. As an aspiring writer, the Daily Bruin caught my eye. I frantically looked for an open time in my busy class filled schedule and applied. I received an email from the Daily Bruin for an interview and waited about one week to receive my acceptance email. After my acceptance, training for the intern position began. Trainings took place every Saturday on UCLA campus for about three to four hours. Every Saturday I came home exhausted and didn’t have any energy to study. Unfortunately, I discovered I did not have any other choice than to sleepily open my laptop and notebook to begin my work. Although the trainings made me extremely tired, now that I can actually write for the Daily Bruin, it proved worth it.
I also received update emails from the English Counseling Department with new opportunities for English students every day. I stumbled upon College Magazine, and my experience here during my fall quarter created an incredibly supportive and insanely fun environment. Every week I would submit an article based on a specific prompt. With an amazing editor and supportive teams, this internship did not feel like work at all. It allowed me to escape reality and write for myself without worrying about school. Juggling both internships proved difficult, nonetheless college does not give the idea of an easy, laid-back environment. If I could go back in time and apply to these internships aware of my already difficult class workload, I would. The memories that I created and the people I met always remain worth it.
Around the last two weeks of my first quarter at UCLA, an unexpected change occurred.
My TAs in each class emphasized how they would potentially go on a strike against the UC system entirely. The Union specifically represents the 19,000 academic student employees, teaching assistants, graduate student instructors, tutors and readers across the UC system. The strike began to address the housing crisis occurring around California and their unfair wages with few benefits. California remains as one of the most expensive states to live in, which proves why the Union voted for a strike. All of my classes with TAs ultimately canceled once the strike began, and my professors didn’t have anyone to grade final examinations or final papers. Attending a large university post pandemic already proved difficult. Now, without the support of the TAs and classes cancelled, it seemed even harder than I imagined.
“The final examination will now be more like a quiz—and your final paper will be graded based on completion.”
Due to the fact that we relied so heavily on our amazing TAs, classes slid into a more easier finals week than before. This end to my quarter turned out a complete surprise. I prepared myself for college after COVID. I knew the transition would seem difficult in many aspects as I did not seem accustomed to in person classes anymore. However, now with classes cancelled again due to different circumstances it seemed as though history repeated itself.
My first quarter at UCLA illustrated an unexpected ending. I finished my final examinations strong and began packing my things back into the suitcase I first walked into my dorm with. Now, a long-awaited winter break arrived and my next quarter at UCLA hopefully creates smoother conditions than it did this time, for the union and for the students. I expect myself to continue pursuing the activities I love to normally do on top of my classes. Without them I truly believe I won’t survive the quarter. My two internships allowed me to take a break from my studying and work with incredibly supportive individuals. Although this transition post pandemic proved difficult, it challenged me to work harder. Without my internships, roommates or even the clubs I attended, my year would end in a different way. With my amazing luck, it did not. I can’t wait to continue to form lifelong friendships, memories and opportunities in my first year at UCLA.