At the start of every new school year I worry that I am not ready for its challenges. I worry I won’t know how to accommodate a different teacher’s style, that I will be overwhelmed with work and unsure how to manage my stress. Every year I convince myself that I am ill-prepared to take on the social, emotional, physical, and academic challenges that will surely come, but nonetheless catch us by surprise. 

I know what you’re thinking: I’m an anxious mess. In reality though, I promise I’m not. If anything, my self-deprecating skepticism and distrust in my capabilities play the devil on my shoulder, motivating me to prove them wrong. It is because of these fears – these personal demons – that I’ve come to learn that I actually love facing the unexpected, I love a challenge, and I can overcome. 

If there was ever a school year to be skeptical of, worried about its challenges, and stressed about its outcomes, it would be the first year of university. Students have to learn everything new: how the university system works, where they’re living, how to learn in enormous lecture halls, discover and nurse new interests, meet and make new friends, work with teachers as an adult, and of course find and maybe even reinvent themselves. There is so much that freshers have to learn and adjust to in such a short period of time. 

In addition to this tremendous learning curve, today’s foreign first years are grappling with the idea of how their first college experiences will be affected by the coronavirus and travel.

Before the pandemic virus, my worries going into school were elementary; studying abroad entailed growing accustomed to new accents, educational systems, customs, cultures and more. Now I find myself juggling issues such as flight paths, alternatives to shipping my luggage, trying to apply and receive my student Visa on time, hoping and wondering if the traditions –  such as freshers week – which charmed and attracted me to St Andrews in the first place, would still occur. Will my lecture halls look different? Will classes be split into waves of students? It sounds as though I no longer have a roommate. I think I need to quarantine for two weeks, which means my parents can’t help me settle in… (Sorry mom, no ceremonial dorm picture.)

So yes, I am juggling my fears, but if years of worrying about my first day of school taught me anything, it’s that I am not alone. 

I know that St Andrews students are lucky to be returning or attending school at all, when many students across the world are unable to. 

How fortunate am I that I get to share such a bizarrely singular experience with my fellow classmates: moving into and starting school during the madness of coronavirus? With the little knowledge I have of my classmates, and of St Andrews, I already know that this tight-nit community will only become closer through adversity. 

My classmates and I will share our own personal struggles with this virus. We will bond over the times we got all the way to the grocery store, and had to rush back home after forgetting a mask. We will cry over the family and friends we have lost, and cheer those we know, or don’t know, that work on the front lines at hospitals and other health care facilities. We will talk about all of the final moments of our school careers we never got to have, and brainstorm all the ways we’d make up for our losses while at St Andrews. We will remind each other that compared to most, we are privileged to discuss our problems in the comfort and safety of an excellent school, while others struggle to access and pay for health care, food, and even to live.

I am not afraid of the challenges to come; I am blessed. Everyone lives through something – whether it’s a world war, an economic crisis, or a social movement. We all overcome something, big or small. I am alive, I am healthy, and this virus is just one obstacle of many more that I will face. 

Besides, I am about to embark on the greatest journey of my life: I challenge any interference to try and bring my hopeful spirits down.