Senior Column: When one door closes, another opens

The author, then and now.

We all know the letter. The kind that arrives with that familiar heart-sinking first sentence,“We regret to inform you…”

Regret. Regret. Regret.

As a high school senior reading these words, I was the one with regrets. If only I had gotten a higher score on the SATs. If only I had taken physics my senior year. If only … and the list goes on.

The doors kept slamming, one by one.

But one of them stayed open.

My mom and older sister had gone to UConn, so it seemed like the natural path forward. UConn was not the dream destination, but rather, a starting point. Standing at the top of Horsebarn Hill the spring before my freshman year, I decided that was where the adventure would begin.

What I didn’t realize was that the next four years would be an adventure in and of itself.

At the end of the fall semester of my freshman year, I was faced with a tough decision. After the holidays, I packed up my first dorm room at Towers and returned to my childhood bedroom. I decided to stay home during the spring semester for health reasons. At the time, I felt like I had failed a test – a thought that filled me with self-doubt. Somehow, I thought with absolute horror, I had failed at being a college student.

But that wasn’t the case. I want to share my story because there should never be shame in taking care of yourself and doing what’s best for you, even if it doesn’t follow the same path as everyone else. Perhaps I didn’t have the typical freshman experience – a wild mix of socializing and studying and crying in the library moments before an exam.

But I did have something else.

I signed up for British Literature II at the Waterbury campus that spring. Professor Barecca, an English professor at the Storrs campus, was teaching the course. By reading “Death of the Heart,” a new favorite book of mine, Professor Baracca gave me a gift that I had lost that semester: my motivation and love for learning.

Sophomore year, I arrived back at UConn with newfound strength and bursting ambition to try anything and everything. I came across The Daily Campus at the Involvement Fair. My mom had done a sports humor column when she had been at UConn, and as an English major, I couldn’t wait to put pen to paper. I didn’t have a lot of journalism experience, but I did have words, and a desire to share them with the world.

That year I primarily wrote for the Opinion section, writing articles ranging from “The 2018 U.S. Open is a wake-up call for women’s rights” to “Why we must start thinking about trauma now.” Writing for the Opinion section gave me the chance to use my voice and speak up about the causes I cared about.

In junior year, I decided I wanted to start a travel column for the Life section. As someone who loved to travel, but did not have the time or means as a college student to get very far, I shared local hidden, inexpensive destinations.

However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, I once again was faced with an obstacle. Another door shut. First the door to my Holcomb dorm room, and then a canceled summer study abroad program in Toulouse, France. The challenges with my travel column became obvious, as more doors were shutting and the once-foreign idea of “quarantine” became the new normal. Instead of giving up on it, I got creative, sympathizing with my fellow travelers, and wrote “Husky on the Road: From the couch.”

This past fall, I was disappointed to not be able to take in-person classes on campus. I felt frustrated that my senior year of college would not be how I pictured it: working behind the desk at the English office, smiling at the students and professors I had come to know so well. Instead, I sat at my kitchen table with my dog Sailor at my feet, and got the chance to bond with my older sister, who was also home doing grad school classes remotely. A challenging time for the world turned into a chance for us to grow closer and make memories together.

One of my best friends from home who attended Georgetown was also taking classes remotely at the time. We decided to get an apartment together in D.C. for the spring semester. If it weren’t for doors closing that fall due to the pandemic, I never would have gotten to open the door to my first apartment and live with my best friend from kindergarten, an idea we would often fantasize about. I completed my honors thesis – a middle-grade realistic fiction novel, Sophie Spiraling – from my desk overlooking R Street as the cherry blossoms were beginning to bloom.

Despite not being on campus, I still felt connected to UConn through my live Zoom classes, English department meetings and working with the editors – primarily Hollianne Lao – at The Daily Campus. This year, in an effort to not only find and feature extraordinary college students who are following their passions, I also wanted to make connections in a world that had become harder than ever to do so. Through my series, “Sensational Student,” I not only became a better journalist, but I also met some truly incredible people, including Henry Bird of “The Great British Bake Off.”

The time I had at UConn may not have been the typical college experience that students can relate to, but I can say that I could not be more proud of everything I accomplished.

If I hadn’t gotten those college rejection letters in my senior year of high school, I would not have met the amazing professors who have become important mentors to me. I would not have gotten my job working for the English department or found my voice at The Daily Campus.

I ended my UConn journey and my time at the DC in D.C., and I have absolutely no regrets.

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