Ertl, a senior outside hitter on the volleyball team, plays in an intrasquad scrimmage. The UWS Volleyball team begins their season on March 6 against Minnesota Morris. Photo by Holden Law

By Elise Ertl

March 2020 was the first time that many of us had heard of COVID-19, the name of the deadly virus that was rapidly infecting the world. As a college student, what seemed like a temporary upheaval in routine and an extra week of spring break quickly turned into a prolonged, inevitable future.

A complimentary at home stay was in order for the rest of the school year, which meant we all head to figure out a brand new way of learning and a brand new “normal.” I was more than happy to stay at home to ensure the safety of others and to slow the spread of the virus, but I also had no idea how staying at home would chip away at small bits of my own happiness as well.

Things I used to take for granted were now things I missed and longed to have back. There were no more smiles from friends greeting you as you walked into a classroom, only distant faces appearing on a screen. There were no more thirty second conversations in hallways with people you only sort of kind of knew and all of the daily embarrassing, yet hilarious, public interactions were virtually eliminated. Friends and coworkers in whom I found a close, personal support system were dispersed and fragmented across state lines.

Sport practices were quickly shut down, and, even now that practices are resuming, as a senior in my last semester the thought that tomorrow could be my last day on the court lives in my mind rent free.

Despite the disparity that has changed what going to college means, I have also found comfort in spending time with myself and have learned to appreciate even the smallest of interactions that occur in everyday life.

I have found that a different kind of growth can also be a good growth if you spend the time to make it one. I have put a much higher value on my time, who I spend time with and, most importantly, on myself. As I find myself about to graduate in a way I had not always imagined, I am reminded how these drastic and difficult times of change have also prepared me for an even more unpredictable world.