An Unconventional College Experience: My Four Years at UNCW

By: Jaime Mull

(Photo by UNCW)

I’m graduating college in less than two months. It doesn’t feel real.

To say it has been a difficult, but exciting, four years at UNCW is an understatement. Being in college during two major hurricanes and a pandemic hasn’t been easy in the slightest. Regardless of the challenges I’ve faced, it has also been the best four years of my life. I’ve learned so much about myself in my time at UNCW, and I feel like I’ve become a better person along the way. College is one of the most unique experiences and it truly forces you to leap headfirst out of your comfort zone.

Here is a breakdown of my last four years at UNCW, and how what I’ve been through has helped me grow into the person I am now.

Freshman Year

Your 18th birthday is supposed to be an exciting day, signifying your transition into adulthood, and yet it was one of the saddest days of my life. I started my freshman year at UNCW in August of 2018. The day I moved into the suites, an on-campus dormitory that had 10 single bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, was my 18th birthday. I had never left my family for more than a weekend, and I was suddenly being thrown into this new home where I knew practically no one. I remember going to Mellow Mushroom for lunch with my family and before we even got our pizza, I broke down into tears. I had this overwhelming feeling of homesickness, and my family hadn’t even left yet. I was homesick for the next few weeks, calling my mom every day and already planning my next visit home. Lucky for me, I got my wish less than a month after moving in.

Hurricane Florence landed in North Carolina on September 14th, 2018. UNCW issued a voluntary evacuation only a few days prior, and I was already back at home before the hurricane hit. Classes were canceled for the time being, and I remember thinking I would be gone for a week at the most. One month later, I was still at home. It was so strange to have just moved into my new home and have to make new friends, only to have it ripped away in just a few weeks. I felt like I was back at square one, having lost all the progress I had made at school. Little did I know, this wasn’t the worst thing that would happen in my time at UNCW, and it was only the beginning.

(Photo by Raleigh News and Observer)

Sophomore Year

My freshman year went pretty smoothly after that. I made friends with my suitemates, did pretty well in my classes, and got a job working at a student-living apartment complex. Florence definitely set me back, but I made it back okay and with little to no damage. I became close with two of my suitemates, and we decided to live together at the apartments I worked at in my sophomore year. Another hurricane, Hurricane Dorian, hit almost a year after Florence, but it was much less severe and this time I was only home for a week.

The real storm hit in March of 2020 with Covid-19. Classes were all moved online, and I lost my job at the apartment complex in April. Honestly, I was just really scared and had no idea what the future held at that moment. I remember watching the movie Contagion with my roommate when news of Covid-19 started spreading and looking back on it now two years later, it’s scary how similar the movie has become to our reality.

Junior Year

My third year at UNCW was pretty unremarkable, to tell you the truth. I got a new job, and just before my first day of work, I tested positive for Covid-19 for the first time. I had about all of the symptoms you could possibly have, but luckily, I fully recovered.

Up until this point, classes hadn’t been too difficult, and I had been mostly taking gen-ed’s and pre-COM classes. During junior year, I fully enrolled as a Communication Studies major and began taking more advanced classes, like Rhetorical Theory. I had also already begun taking courses to complete my journalism minor, which was really exciting. I had courses with some of my favorite professors at UNCW during my sophomore and junior year, and most were in the Journalism and English department.

I was beginning to really enjoy my time at UNCW. Of course, I had been enjoying it for the past two years as well, but once you start getting into the classes that you’re really interested in, college becomes a whole new level of excitement. Getting to take multiple classes with some of your favorite professors and learning from people who really enjoy teaching is something I began to appreciate and not take for granted.

Senior Year

And just like that, it was senior year. For the past three years, college felt like it was never going to end. I’m sure a lot of college students feel the same way, but I think it’s because you don’t really want to accept that you’re going to have to finish at some point. Now that I’m in my last year, the fact that I’m going to be graduating and moving to a different city in just a few months is hitting me like a truck.

I’ve met so many amazing people during my time at UNCW. I’ve taken really fun, interesting classes, and also some classes that maybe weren’t for me, but that’s just all part of the experience. College is a time for you to try new things and branch out of your comfort zone, even if there were a lot of rough patches along the way. At least I can say I’ve grown, mentally and emotionally, since the day I moved in four years ago.