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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

How to Survive Freshman Year During a Pandemic

Feb 28, 2021 07:10PM ● By Jared Zornitzer

What is college like for you? Are you able to experience it in-person right now? Or are you, like countless other students across the globe, facing the difficult transition to remote learning? This is my short story of finding gratitude during these trying times by relying on a friend which I’m confident would befriend you. Given the adversity that we have all had to face over the past year, I hope that this story inspires you to step back, take a deep breath, and recognize that beauty in life still flourishes.

I am lucky enough to have spent the past two semesters at school. Despite many restrictions, I have met a few close friends and had some memorable in-person experiences. At the same time, I have spent about five weeks in total under school-wide quarantines. The majority of my classes are online so, in common with many others, I experience the fatigue from looking at a computer all day and the feeling of disconnect from members of my college community. Our generation faces unprecedented levels of stress and barriers to social interactions; it seems like the odds are up against us.

On my walk to a COVID-19 test following a quarantine period, my thoughts rambled between worry about school assignments and a yearning for an escape route from the monotony of online classes. Once I joined the long line of students waiting to get tested at the outdoor testing site, I happened to cast my glance to the west. Through the trees, across the Hudson Valley, I beheld the vista of a mountain. It was a stunning sight; it awakened my connection to nature which had been dormant over the past two and a half weeks which I spent in a dorm room. 

The mountains are one of my favorite places to be. The anticipation that comes with setting off on a mountain trail: being fully immersed in nature, surmounting the physical obstacles, laughing and enjoying the company of those who I am with—these are my supreme sources of happiness. In short, I feel at home in the mountains. Seeing a not-too-distant peak that morning brought me back to the present instead of worrying about the day ahead and made me realize that I am really not that far away from home. In fact, I am close to some of the most iconic mountains in the northeast. 

We all live in a wonderful region of the country. We have the joys of blooming spring, the sunny days of summer, the rustic fall foliage and snow-covered peaks in the winter. If you are feeling overwhelmed, I encourage you to remember that vibrant signs of life in its purest forms surround us. All it takes is a step outside to breathe in the fresh air. You are sure to be revitalized and reminded by our Earth-bound friends to take this one day at a time, as they do all around us.

Jared Zornitzer is a full-time college student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY studying engineering. An advocate of balancing work and school with exercise and healthy living, he loves hiking, biking, running, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and learning in his classes.