I probably shouldn’t be excited to admit this to my parents, my professors or even the Internet, but I did not attend classes at all during my first year at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB). I’m sure other college students have said this, as well. Sometimes, cutting class to go to the beach with your friends makes memories that no lecture can replace. I wasn’t making memories. I wasn’t at the beach.
I wasn’t rushing to make it to a day-ger.
As a first-year transfer student trying to get used to the idea of an in-person environment after enduring the pitfalls of online learning for two years, I was alone. In my university apartment. Every single day for nine months. Because I was terrified.
Most classes during this past year were hybrid and provided remote options for students to participate with, which I took full advantage of. I established myself as an adamant Zoom user and only set foot on campus if it was absolutely necessary (no more than 20 times total). Any excuse in the book that I could (ethically) use to not leave my apartment was fair game. My housemates fondly nicknamed me the “San Joaquin Cat” after my day–to-day routine of doing absolutely nothing but sleeping.
It makes you wonder what I felt so terrified of that I couldn’t even get the education I’d transferred for. Did I really work so hard to throw it down the drain? The answer is no. Of course I hadn’t done that. However, I believe that as a transfer student, nobody prepares you for the reality of what’s to come. After adjusting to isolation for so long, I wasn’t ready to get thrown back into the world, especially in a city I was unfamiliar with, at a school I’d never been to, surrounded by people I’d never seen before. I was scared, homesick and apathetic to the idea of settling into my new life.
What I’d thought would end up as an incredible experience at a new university quickly turned into a nightmare.
From the Santa Barbara housing shortage to run-ins with financial aid, I found myself wishing someone had told me how little I really knew about the school. I hated how lost and uprooted I felt at the university, so I rarely engaged with anything affiliated with it. Instead, I let myself waste away between TikTok videos, mental breakdowns and naps; an endless cycle that prevented me from doing anything, even taking advantage of the education I’d worked for.
At some point, I couldn’t ignore how restless I felt. I began packing a bag in the middle of the week and commuting six hours back to Sacramento, just to sit in my bedroom and see my friends again. When I finally reached the end of the school year, I realized how impermanent I made my life there. It occurred to me how much time passed and how I’d spent it all. I did nothing. I also realized how much I learned from that experience, from toughing it out on my own, even if I didn’t handle my feelings towards school in the right ways.
The new year is about to start.
I’ll work as a caller on-campus for the UCSB Annual Fund. I even made a list of clubs I’d like to know more about in case I’d like to join. My housemates from last year and I made plans to have brunch on the beach before the first round of midterms hit. Most importantly, I signed up to become a peer mentor for other incoming transfer students. I currently have three mentees who feel extremely excited about the upcoming quarter and the experience UCSB offers.
I’m sure they’ll listen to my story and appear amazed at the fact that I still passed every single class. Deep down, I admit that I hope they’ll skip one or two classes this year to make the most of their transfer experience, whether it’s the beach, a day-ger or just sitting at home and taking a breather.
Sorry, parents, professors and the Internet.