By Seth Hunter
My experience at UNCW has been anything other than normal, which I am sure many of my fellow students can relate to. While I did not have the “typical college experience” that I was hoping for, I found a love for this school and my experiences. I have faced many trials and tribulations during my time here and while I did not realize that they would affect me at the time, they did teach me a lot.
I started UNCW in the Fall semester of 2018 and about a few weeks into my freshman year Wilmington experienced a terrible hurricane named Florence. This hurricane forced the university to shut down for a month and all the students had to return home during this time. I can’t speak for all UNCW students, but my classes did not require us to do any homework or classwork during this time and this unfortunately harmed me. I was taking Calculus that semester and missing a month of it put me far behind and I ultimately had to drop it midway through the semester.
The hurricane did more than affect my schooling, it also hindered my chance to make friends with other freshmen. I lived in the former University Apartments, which have since been replaced by the new dorms that were built within the past year. My dorms were the most affected by the hurricane, other students and I were placed in different living locations. Some students lived in common rooms, some lived in a hotel, and others like me had to sign a lease for an off-campus apartment. While it was fun to live off campus with no rules, I did miss out on the freshmen experience that I hoped to receive where I would meet other freshman and do on campus activities throughout the week.
Coming into my freshman year I was a pre-business major with some credits under my belt from high school. To apply for business school, I had to pass Calculus, but my plans changed when I had to drop the class. I scrapped my business degree plans and opted for a Communication Studies degree with a minor in business. I switched to this major because I did not know what I wanted to do with my life and this degree covered a vast range of careers. Changing majors was the best thing that happened to me because I was able to try out some different career fields and found that I enjoyed working with social media and digital design. I focused on Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) with my degree and have rediscovered a passion for art that I lost when I was a child. While Hurricane Florence was a terrible disaster, it did steer me in a new direction I was not aware of, and it shaped my career path.
After recovering from Hurricane Florence causing problems in my college experience, I was able to get back onto my feet and enjoy the rest of my freshman year and most of my sophomore year. This unfortunately changed in March of 2020 when COVID-19 began to affect the world forcing most places to shut down accordingly. I was on an internship for the Disney College Program during this time which was cut short because of COVID, preventing me from doing more networking like I was trying to do while there.
COVID left lasting effects on me, and I am sure everyone can relate to being affected by it negatively. For the first time I was not able to attend any classes in person and had to become used to interacting with teachers and classmates over a screen. I had always been an extrovert, so it was difficult for me to become an introvert because of the lockdowns and restrictions. COVID turned me into a homebody, and I saw a decrease in my ability to interact with people face-to-face, which I am still working to reverse even now.
I know that I am not the only college student who experienced challenges during college, and I know that many of my fellow UNCW students have a similar story to me. I did not let these challenges keep me down, instead I was always growing and evolving despite any trial I was facing. Some of these challenges left a positive effect on me such as discovering a new career passion and trying new hobbies while on lockdown. UNCW has become my home and I encourage all new students to always find the silver lining despite the many clouds they will encounter during their time here.