The Ups and Downs of College Through Hurricanes & a Pandemic

By Mia Bruce

(Photo by Philippe Bout via Unsplash)

A Rocky Beginning to College

As an incoming freshman to UNCW, I had typical expectations of what my college experience would be like. My first semester started off well for the first three weeks of class. In September, I decided to come home for the weekend to work an event and never would have realized that I would end up being at home for five weeks.

Hurricane Florence decided to make an appearance and keep me at home for those five weeks. Once the university reopened following Florence, I planned on coming back to my freshman apartment to move back in. Right before I was about to head back, I received an email saying that the University Apartments were not going to be reopened and I would be displaced to an alternate living situation. I was assigned to live in a hotel near campus. After already feeling disconnected with my freshman peers, being moved a mile off campus to a hotel elevated those feelings even worse. Within the first eight weeks of my college experience, I had moved three hours away from home, moved back and moved three hours away for the second time into a hotel off campus.

The second half of my freshman semester offered a lot more peace than the first semester did. I was able to move back on campus to an upper classman apartment and felt more connected with my college and peers. I was able to join an on-campus club and make new friends at UNCW. In addition to joining campus commitments, I also started working part-time at a local doggy daycare facility. After an eventful first semester, I was able to finally settle in to a “normal” life for my second semester.

Transitioning to a Pandemic Lifestyle

Just when I thought my “weird” college experience was over and it was only normal going forward, I was surely mistaken. I was graciously given a whole year of normalcy during 2019. Halfway through the spring of 2020, the world paused in March of 2020 when COVID-19 reared its ugly head. UNCW moved all my courses online and my work even shut down during this time.

In June of 2020, my work had finally opened after being closed for 2.5 months and I returned to work full-time. To keep working full-time, I continued with online courses for the fall of 2020 and the following two semesters after that. Going from all in-person courses to all online was quite the adjustment. Working full-time while maintaining a full course load was not easy either. At times, I had to prioritize my work which ultimately caused issues for me down the road. With the freedom of asynchronous classes, I was able to work forty hours a week. In the spring of 2021, despite a full course load and a full-time work schedule, I took on another responsibility. I was elected for the position of VP of Administration for UNCW’s Panhellenic Council for 2021.

This position taught me a lot of responsibility as the responsibility party for UNCW’s sorority life. In this position, I was a part of the planning process for Formal Recruitment and the months of planning that went into planning it. This position was practically an unpaid part-time job. Having the discipline to balance work, school, Panhellenic, and my social life was a tricky equation. With this added responsibility, I quickly had to adjust my priorities to stay on top of all these responsibilities. By the end of the 2021, I reached the end of my term and gained a lot of experience in the process.

Final Review of My Time at UNCW

During my time at UNCW, I didn’t get the typical college experience, but I sure was able to have an interesting one. Starting with a hurricane, having multiple moves, a pandemic but I was able to gain a lot of learning experiences throughout the process. Going into college I had a plan in my head that ultimately was completely rearranged by the end of my time at UNCW. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and it has been proved throughout my time here.

If I wouldn’t have felt distant following my freshman year from moving due to the hurricane, I probably wouldn’t have joined a sorority the fall of my sophomore year. If I didn’t go through Formal Recruitment, I would’ve never been able to have the opportunity to join UNCW’s Panhellenic Council. Without joining Panhellenic Council, I would have never gained real world experience with event planning and personal prioritization.

Even though in the moment I wished that I had a normal college experience, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anyone else’s. I feel like I gained even more personal life experience with this route compared to a “normal” route. I got more work experience than I would have gotten if the pandemic didn’t happen and took on a position that gifted me exposure to life experience.

(Photo by Cole Keister via Unsplash)