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Getting Lost on My Way to Class

The first few weeks of college in your first year are hard. They are even harder for the Class of 2024. But, as always, we eventually find comfort, connection or familiarity somewhere.

Look out for stories about first-year 'shock' from a few of our newest writers:

If I were on campus at 11:25 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 18, I might have been sprinting. After my 10:05 class wrapped up, I would have had only 15 minutes to find my next class, French 101. I might have made a wrong turn, entered the wrong building, even gone into the wrong classroom for the first five minutes of class before realizing my mistake.

But I wasn’t on campus.

The distance from class to class that day didn’t take me through brick buildings or across wide open quads. In fact, my journey spanned only a couple tabs on my laptop. My laptop, which was sitting on my desk, in my room, in my home, in a suburb of Pittsburgh rather than Oxford.

Fifteen minutes to leave one Zoom meeting and join another seemed like an eternity. I sat waiting for as long as possible, mouse hovering over the join button. No one wants to be the first one to class on the first day.

Finally, the clock read 11:39. I clicked “Join” and waited for the meeting to open.

Instead, a new tab opened in Chrome. At the top of a nearly blank screen was a “Redirect Notice” with a new link to join the meeting. I shrugged, a bit miffed but not put off yet, and clicked.

The Zoom app opened this time, and for a moment, I was hopeful. Then, an error message. My email hadn’t been approved to join the meeting.

I tried signing in again. Nothing.

I tried following a separate link. Nothing.

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I tried opening the meeting through Google Calendars. I tried going through Canvas. I tried my personal email address. I even tried to reset my password. Finally, after 15 minutes of trying, a new error message popped up. My account was temporarily locked because I had tried to log in unsuccessfully too many times.

I wasn’t going to make it to my first French class.

The coronavirus has taken away many staples of the first year at American colleges. There is no in-person Mega Fair to look forward to, no orientation programs to pack us all together for hours at a time, no hall meetings on move-in day, no upperclassmen to explain all the traditions, official and otherwise.

Before Aug. 18, I thought it would be impossible to get lost on the first day of class — just one more essential college experience the Class of 2024 will never get. I was wrong. What should have been a moment of panic as I realized I would have to email my professor and explain my absence was instead a moment of relative peace. Finally, I felt like a college freshman.

It turns out, even being 300 miles away from campus in the middle of a global pandemic can’t stop me from getting lost on my way to class. And for that, I’m grateful.