Juan David’s Newsletter - November 22, 2020

Reflection On My First Semester of College

Today’s newsletter will be a special edition to reflect on my first semester of college.

I’m back home.

I left my dorm yesterday morning, and I have lots to tell you about what it’s like to go to college during a pandemic, and its effects academically, socially, and emotionally.

First, let’s start with a picture to show how I feel.

With a bittersweet wink 😉 and my thumb up 👍, the first semester of in-person college ended.

A bittersweet wink 😉 because we have to go home and it will be the last time we studied, laughed, and ate together until next year.

My thumb up 👍 because better times will come for all of us, and we get the miraculous opportunity to spend even more time with our families.

For many of us, going home means distractions, family arguments, and things we’d rather not deal with. As college students, we think we know everything, and going home crashes that reality.

But I want to emphasize what it means to go home and spend time with your family.

  1. 90% Perspective: by the time we graduate from high school, we will have spent 90%!!! of the time we will ever spend with our parents. Think about that for a second. This changed how I perceived quarantine. I viewed it from “This sucks” to “Wow, I’m grateful.”

  2. Come On! It’s your family: your friends might be cool or whatever. But no one loves you as much as your family. They might not tell you or even show you. But they really do. Look at their small and tiny actions, those speak volume.

I’ll be at home for two months, and for some that’s a hell of a long time. For me, it is too but it’s also a chance to stretch that 90% and just be with my family.

Life is Never Simple

If you spend time, live, study, “hang out,” and do everything else together with a bunch of strangers. Those strangers become your friends. Those friends become your life.

Since August, I started living with these strangers up until now. Leaving what became our new normal makes me reflect on life and change.

Life is never simple. There are emotions and desires.

As we look back and reflect on all the memories, you may get melancholic. But, as Alain de Botton said, The moment we cry…is not when things are sad but when they turn out to be more beautiful than we expected them to be.”

The fact to have such a moment is in itself, something to be grateful and happy about.

It’ll happen…” as our good friend Hanniel often says.

College in a COVID-19 World

My school (UIUC) handled the pandemic very well, keeping the cases down, and developing ways (like an advanced testing protocol and a contact tracing app) to make us feel safe.

Feeling safe was crucial for me to do well academically.

Classes being on Zoom or recorded was a challenge but I can’t really say what is better or worse because I wasn’t there when classes were in person. There are advantages and disadvantages, especially in learning styles.

The greatest challenge for me was the first few weeks in which I tried to figure out what and how to study. Time is scarce, and figuring out how to study effectively was underlying my path of becoming an engineer.

Socially & Emotionally

When you think about college, a social environment comes to mind. There were certainly fewer people on campus, and there were many restrictions to meet people.

But fewer people does not mean fewer friends. Fewer people could mean that you increase the probability of seeing them more often, hence increasing the likelihood of becoming friends with them.

I’m fortunate to say that I was able to meet many people but it’s important to note that I was never ever in my room. If you take out sleeping time, I probably spent about 15 minutes in my room in the three months.

Why did I do this?

Two reasons: 1) I wanted to maximize productivity. I didn’t want to confuse my mental state where I work and where I sleep. 2) A large part of college is about meeting people, and me being out there made me meet more people almost by accident.

That’s something I did differently but I had friends who spent most of their time in their rooms, which affected their productivity and mental health.

Honestly, I don’t quite remember when and how I decided to never be in my room but that made my experience much much better.

Home, Sweet Home

Now, I’m back home, and I’m excited to be here. Even if I’m not, I have to be because I’m going to be here anyway so I’d rather think I’m excited.

I’m looking forward to these two months of family time, another month of virtual college and finals, and overall a time to be productive.

I plan to get back to a strict sleeping schedule going to bed at 9-10 pm and waking up at 5 am.

Doing math until 6 am. Reading and writing for another hour. Going on a run and starting the day at 8 am.

I’m excited, and I hope you are too.

If you enjoyed it or found it helpful, please share it with others.


Until next week,

Juan David Campolargo