Popping the bubble

As the semester wraps up, I feel that same familiar sense of dread. I told myself that I was going to study extra hard this semester to keep good grades and improve my GPA, but fell off after the first week or two. As classes continued, I felt myself losing interest, and just a few poor exam grades was all it took for me to lose all my hope altogether. This sense of hopelessness spread to everything that I did. It seemed as if I couldn’t do anything to fix the grades I was getting, and I wasn’t seeing my friends as much due to my busy course load. I stopped wanting to participate in activities around campus. I was trapped inside my little bubble.

Though my experience may not sound like anyone else’s, I’m sure many others out there have felt that same sense of hopelessness. It’s no secret that Rensselaer is a difficult school, making it especially hard for students to get the good grades they desire. However, now more than ever, it seems like students are falling behind and struggling. Why is this? For me, the answer lies in the aftermath of the pandemic.

This fall, for the first time since COVID-19 started in March of 2020, RPI had full, in-person classes without masks. Most people were thrilled—I know that I was. It felt like we had finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel. We were finally going back to normal. The thing was that COVID-19 became my normal. When I was first sent home, it felt like a vacation, but it soon turned into that same sense of hopelessness mentioned earlier. I was stuck at home with nothing to do, classes were half-heartedly held online, and I was confined to Zoom and FaceTime to see my friends. When I was sent back to school in-person, I had no interest in participating in the activities I used to love. I wanted to get my high school diploma and get out. I stopped participating in electives such as photography and forensics. I left clubs that I used to be a part of such as gardening and environmental. I stopped reaching out to people who weren’t in my inner circle of friends.

In college, I started to notice this cycle repeating. It felt normal to not participate in activities and I didn’t give clubs a second thought. I didn’t try to reach outside of my comfort zone to join a place where I could meet new people. Once the weather got cold and there was nothing to do outside, I started to go crazy. I felt hopeless, a similar feeling to when I couldn’t go outside during COVID-19. That was when I came to the realization I had to make a change in my daily life—so I joined a new club—The Poly.

I have never been interested in journalism until now. The second I stepped into that office, I felt welcomed and knew that stepping out of my comfort zone was the right choice to make. So, I suggest to all the students out there: be brave. If you feel hopeless, maybe challenge yourself and try something new. I got so used to “the safe choice” that sometimes I need a reminder there is so much more outside of my bubble.