Navigating Unfamiliarity: Thoughts on Returning to Campus

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Photo by Sammy Muñoz

Katelyn Katz

Contributing Writer

Walking through UC Santa Barbara’s (UCSB) campus at the start of this year, students felt the eerie sense of entering a post-apocalyptic war zone. Previously overcrowded bike lanes were virtually empty, music and sounds of lively conversation were nowhere to be heard, and occasional passersby all adorned masks covering their identities. For many students, this felt incredibly daunting and scary. Student lives were no longer centered around being on campus, but many found a new home and work life in Isla Vista (I.V.). 

For freshmen who decided to move to I.V., their experience was fundamentally different from the traditional freshman experience. Their freshman year consisted of little to no campus visits, Zoom classes in tenant-owned apartments, and remembering to grab dish soap and laundry detergent on their grocery run as fresh 18-year-olds. Students in I.V. attending Zoom classes for their first year felt a disconnect from the campus aspect of college living. For the students who had to go through their freshman or sophomore year online without a central school to call a safe space, this year has been a monumental positive change in their college experience.

“I guess I kind of forgot — or finally gained the perspective of — how many people actually go here,” said Lindsay Skrabo, a sophomore at UCSB, in an interview with The Bottom Line. 

“It was very eye-opening to see the faces of the school, because all I saw from living in I.V. my freshman year were my neighbors and roommates, but now I see new faces everyday in classes and in the halls,” she remarked. Skrabo felt that the in-person school year presented another adjustment period, but she remained eager to get comfortable on campus and make friends in her classes.

“It was very eye-opening to see the faces of the school, because all I saw from living in I.V. my freshman year were my neighbors and roommates.” — Lindsay Skrabo, UCSB Student

Although I.V. is relatively small compared to other college towns, the combination of many individual apartment complexes and houses, with the addition of a global pandemic, made it difficult to meet people outside of one’s immediate social circle. Students feel their bubble is growing due to their new experiences on campus. For one, freshmen, sophomores and junior transfers alike have shared the experience of looking at a packed bike lane, and immediately wanting to ditch their cheap bike and work out their calves by speed-walking to Buchanan Hall instead. However, the rules are simple to follow once learned:

  1. Stick to the right side if you are new or a slower rider to let people pass.
  2. Don’t be upset when you inevitably get passed — it is the reality of being a new bike rider.
  3. Yield at the roundabouts. Go to the right line if you are turning right, stay in the left lane if you are going straight.
  4. The bikers always have the right of way. Look up from your GoGaucho app and focus on a possible speed-biker passing by your feet!

Other students were genuinely shocked at how far the bike paths can take you, and how large the campus actually is. Those who lived in I.V. without experiencing campus were familiar with the outskirts of campus, and the adventurous students may have made it to the campus bookstore to pick up textbooks. However, many students had never set foot on campus until their first day of classes, and those who spent their first year online felt nervous about being a second-year with as much knowledge as a freshman.

“On my first day of classes, I felt overwhelmed by the fact that I was already a sophomore but was still very unacquainted with the campus, having lived in I.V. my freshman year but not visiting campus,” said sophomore Alexa Sellung. She quickly figured out the layout of the campus, however, and already feels comfortable to have in-person classes.

Although this year is still a transition period from complete isolation to plenty of socialization and new experiences, the consensus is that this exciting and bustling campus is a welcome addition to many UCSB students in I.V. The previously stuffy and closed-off streets of I.V. feel bigger next to the new, unlocked campus.

Although this year is still a period of transitioning from complete isolation to plenty of socialization and new experiences, the consensus is that this new and bustling campus is a welcome addition to many UCSB students in I.V.

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