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I'm a junior, and I’ve experienced only one 'normal' semester of college

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“How do you like Princeton?”

I’ve heard this question so often that I should have an eloquent response prepared. Yet, my answer is underwhelming: “I don’t know.”

I am among the millions of students who attended Zoom University. As a junior, I’ve experienced only one “normal” semester. I even hesitate to categorize freshman fall as normal; incoming students are bombarded with mandatory orientation events and introductory club meetings, only to be lonely among the confused undergraduates who use Google Maps to locate their own dormitories.

I remember the last normal day of college. It was a Wednesday. I was studying for my Italian midterm that was scheduled for Friday. My computer pinged. It was an email from a dean. We were transitioning to a fully virtual semester. Everyone was required to return home – and stay there.

I stopped studying for the Italian exam. I started packing. I cried.

My peers (illegally) set off fireworks in Poe Field. I watched the colorful explosions from my dormitory window. Were we celebrating? Mourning? Protesting? Consequences were irrelevant because suspension from campus isn’t a threat when we’re all being sent far away.

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