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College experiences leave lasting impacts

This month marks eight years since I graduated college, and sometimes I can’t believe it’s been that many years already. Eight years isn’t really all that long in the grand scheme of things, but it feels simultaneously like it was forever ago and also just last week to me.

Any bad memories I have of the experience – the stress of finishing difficult assignments or any drama with friends – have long since faded in my memories, leaving behind only the good ones. Overall, it was an excellent experience for me. Not only did I get a very solid education for my bachelor’s degree, I was also able to try plenty of things I’d never done before, such as getting to be a DJ at the school’s radio station for one semester or traveling out of the country for the first time for a study abroad class.

As a typical shy, quiet kid who never talked much beforehand, I learned at college how to speak up and build more confidence in myself too. I don’t think I’d be a very good journalist today if I hadn’t had that experience. No one wants to be interviewed by someone who doesn’t talk, right?? That’d make things a lot more difficult!

Spending four years away at college is the only time I’ve lived somewhere outside of my native Northampton County. Though I’m glad to be back, I did enjoy getting to experience another part of North Carolina and learn what it’s like to live in a place where I didn’t have to drive half an hour to get anywhere.

I know that college isn’t for everyone, and I think it’s also great that some people pursue technical/vocational careers that don’t require them to attend a school like I did. But I think the opportunity should be available and affordable for anyone who does, in fact, want to attend a university. The benefits can last a lifetime and impact people in ways they never expected.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted a lot of that experience for people right now. Students living on college campuses across the country were sent home for their safety, and there are no definite dates yet for their return. It was the right decision, of course, but it’s still disappointing to see them lose a bit of the experience they should have had. Online learning is an excellent resource, but it’s no substitution for the face-to-face interactions they were expecting to have.

And what about the high school seniors who are planning and preparing to head off to college in the fall? They don’t even know yet if they’ll be able to start the college chapter of their lives in the way they’ve imagined it would be.

I sincerely hope by the time the fall semester begins at universities around the country and in our own state, plans will already be put in place to maintain safety as a priority if students are allowed to return to campus. There needs to be competent leadership at the highest levels at any university, public or private, to ensure that safety measures are carried out effectively and maintained.

It’s no secret that the UNC System, which oversees the state’s public universities, has had some concerning leadership issues in the past. I’ve even mentioned in previous columns the problems they’ve had with the Board at ECU and the whole “Silent Sam” lawsuit debacle. I expect them, however, to set aside their somewhat shady dealings during this pandemic and focus on what’s important: student education proceeding safely in the midst of these troubling times.

I expect that from anyone in a leadership position.

Because, like I said earlier, college is a wonderful experience for many, and I would hate to see people lose that opportunity.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.