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March is coming up soon, and it coincidentally marks a whole year since I've been home because of COVID-19. It's been so long but I still remember the circumstances surrounding the whole thing as if it were yesterday: it was finals week, and I was writing my last paper when all the students got an email about canceled spring break trips and study abroads, and even the possibility of spring term being online for all students. Everything after that was a blur as students struggled to balance finals, shifting plans, dealing with airlines and pre-purchased tickets, and hard goodbyes.

BOS Airport
The journey back home to Michigan this time last year was the quietest that I've ever seen any airport! As I left, I felt a mixture of sadness, anxiety, and fear for the future. Look how far we've come!

Now, it's 2021 and it has almost been a full year since then. As a nation, we've quarantined together, experienced nationwide grief, saw the trauma of various events, and welcomed in a new year. As a school, Dartmouth has also been chugging along. Even during the pandemic, students have continued studying, reaching out to each other for support, and carrying on the only way we know how.

I'd be lying if I said that I wouldn't have preferred to be on-campus. I miss seeing Dartmouth people daily, walking around campus, stowing away in Sanborn Library for an afternoon. I miss going for walks around Occom Pond, eating deliciously unhealthy fried macaroni-and-cheese bites, and stopping to talk with friends whom you'll see out-of-the-blue.

However, I also have been able to take advantage of certain things while at home. In some ways, I am actually really grateful to have been able to make the best of this situation and grow in ways that I didn't expect. This past year, I've been able to:

1. Spend more time for myself. Dartmouth is a busy place and for a busybody like me, it is everything you need to stay consistently distracted and never take the time to be still. At home, I've been able to remove myself from the chaotic, busy lifestyle and re-evaluate how I spend my time and whether it is sustainable in the long run or not. When I get back to Dartmouth (which is hopefully soon!) I'll be better able to manage my time and prioritize myself.

2. Spend more time with family and friends. Ironically, I feel like this year is the year that I've spent the most quality time with people. At school, students love doing things when they are together: going to watch performances, going out to frats, going out to eat together. But during the pandemic, we've all had to lean on simply calling each other and spending time together without being distracted by activities. I personally really value this sort of quality time and I am grateful to have been able to do that with both my friends and my family members.

My dog, Aiko!
This is my baby! His name is Aiko and he is 9 years old. I always felt terrible leaving him when I had to go back to Dartmouth so these past few months I've been sure to shower him with treats, walks, and affection!

3. Handle more course work. Dartmouth students usually do three courses a term, but in the spring and fall of 2020, I took four classes each because I was now at home with fewer distractions and more time on my hands. Dartmouth is amazingly flexible with how we structure our terms and D-Plan, which is why I felt comfortable shifting my plans around and tacking on extra classes. Though the terms were difficult, I was able to learn a lot more and create more space in my academic schedule moving forward, which is always great!

4. Try new things. One additional bonus of having extra time was that I was able to try new things! For example, I went to a ton of talks held by different Dartmouth departments this term, talks which I normally didn't have time for. Furthermore, I worked with Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering in the summer, I joined a sorority this winter, and I even met with a counselor from Dick's House to talk about my mental health! These were all things that were in the back of my mind but often didn't take priority above academics and more formal student organizations, so they never got done. While at home, the continual support and engagement from Dartmouth gave me the ability to accomplish these things and check more things off my bucket list. Every morning, I check my email and see which events are happening that day and I've been able to grow a lot from that!

5. Be a little lazy sometimes. This is very similar to Point #1, but I guess that just really emphasizes how much I needed to learn this lesson! 

At some point in our adult lives, we all have to learn how to take care of ourselves and our physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. Being at home and dealing with so many things at once, I was finally confronted with how I was living my life and I knew that I had to change things to make sure that I was living a sustainable and healthy lifestyle. For me, that meant letting go of some things, being a little lazy at times, and learning how to balance everything. Over break, for example, I watched the entirety of Schitt's Creek while also working on an essay for a contest. Also, this term is the first time since March I am only taking three classes, and I have to say that all the extra time I have is actually astounding. 

So anyway, that's me! What have you learned about yourself, the world, or those around you since last March? Are there things that you're proud of yourself for accomplishing? Other things you'd like to change, or habits you know you've reverted back to?

Whatever your answers to my questions, I hope this new year brings you great joy, love, and peace. May you also bring the same to those around you, perhaps even to new peers at Dartmouth for you prospective '25s! I have no idea how I would have handled this past year without my Dartmouth community by my side and I am so grateful for everything that being a Dartmouth student has enabled me to do, so I hope that you all find equally wonderful places that give you the opportunity to grow and feel supported while doing so.

Thanks for reading!

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