I was petrified as I walked through Target that Tuesday night. Between my roommates and me, we had four shopping carts full of frozen meals, paper towels, seasonings, and enough Tide pods to last the semester. I was too overwhelmed to even think about the load of homework I had left to do or the fact that I still didn’t have a desk. As we threw the $300 worth of groceries inside the trunk of my roommate’s gray Acura crossover and climbed into the car, all we could do was laugh. We broke into a solid five minutes of laughter and all my worries melted away.
Towards the end of that summer, on August 9th, 2020, I put down my deposit for our 3-month lease. After exchanging GroupMe direct messages for two days, I committed to living with four other Georgetown freshmen I didn’t know and hadn’t talked to before. Less than a month later, we all moved in together.
Back then, all my friends in Dallas thought I was crazy. And I admit, it did sound that way: moving to a new city in the middle of a global pandemic with four other guys that I had only met on a couple of Zoom calls. And as the summer of 2020 wound down, I started to panic. Many of my friends from home were heading back to their respective campuses, and there I was, unsure if I would even be able to step foot in D.C.
But when the time came to move to D.C., I knew I wanted to get out of Dallas to experience something new, even if it was just for a little while. After 5 months of living at home during the pandemic, I was beyond ready for a new chapter in my life.
During the first couple of weeks in September, as I adapted to my new lifestyle, the freedom that I dreamt of and the new friends I met made me feel like the immense risk had been worth it. The five of us got along, not without differences, but anything was better than living at home in Dallas. After a month, though, I started to wake up with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach every morning because of one simple problem: the location of our house.
We would cook and do classes from home, and we only really had to leave to go to the gym, just a few minutes away, which was extremely convenient. After a while, though, this staying in felt isolating. The problem was that we lived in Alexandria, Virginia. Not D.C. itself, not Arlington, but Alexandria: A true family residential community, with Old Town only 5 minutes from our Airbnb. I had known when I moved in that I wouldn’t be getting the full college experience, but, living so far from everything and only seeing the 4 other Georgetown guys that lived with me, it never really felt like college at all. I wasn’t able to appreciate the warmth of the campus community or the joy of bumping into classmates in the neighborhood. So, in October, after stressing out about the continued closure of campus in the spring semester, I spent the month contacting property owners, scouring Zillow, and researching apartment complexes and hotels we could possibly live in.
After countless house tours, we put our deposit down on a house in Foxhall for the spring semester. The combination of location and price was unbeatable. And for the first time that spring semester, I started to feel closer to a university I had never spent one minute living on. I could finally casually bump into other Georgetown friends while getting COVID tests, working out at Washington Sports club, or Zooming into classes from the same coffeeshop. The brutal winter months of January and February wore on, but by the time we got back from spring break, with vaccines being offered to everyone in April, I felt hopeful for the first time that we were getting closer to a typical college experience.
But at the same time, I couldn’t help but think about all the memories we didn’t get to make. We hadn’t gotten the opportunity to live in the rat-infested halls of Darnell. We didn’t know what it meant to experience the “freshman crawl” or enjoy a sweaty, crowded Vil B party. We hadn’t been able to live through the highs of Chicken Tender Day and lows of Taco Tuesday at Leo’s (possibly a hot take). Or even be lucky enough to watch a Dante Polvara free kick sail into the top corner from Shaw Field. But, finally, I was okay with that.
I was privileged to be able to move out to the D.C. area when my other friends had to spend the semester at home or hope they wouldn’t get kicked off their college campus, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that opportunity. Living with four other teenage guys and experiencing what it meant to deal with a broken shower head or a faulty dishwasher without help from my parents wasn’t what I initially anticipated, but it prepared me more for the fall return to campus than I ever could have imagined.
Experiencing my sophomore fall on campus with in-person classes last semester was indescribable. My roommates and I had constantly joked about the possibility of moving into our dorm rooms, and when I finally did, on August 23, 2021, it felt surreal. I finally was able to appreciate every moment that each Georgetown freshman should experience from communal bathrooms to Leo’s dining to late nights in Lau. The hours spent during the previous year scouring Trader Joe’s for the best frozen meals for the week and meal prepping bulk sized packages of chicken make me appreciate the ease of having Leos, no matter how long I have to wait for Chicken Parmesan.
The countless back and forth calls with our landlord to fix the faulty washing machine, broken oven, or leaking ceiling makes me so grateful for the incredible maintenance and cleaning staff. And after facing such adult responsibilities as finding a house to rent, teaching my roommates how to cook, or learning how to budget at the grocery store, a late-night International Trade problem set or 8-page Comparative Political Systems paper didn’t seem so bad.
This rollercoaster of a pandemic doesn’t seem like it has a clear end in sight, and it continues to take the life of thousands and destroy communities. It has disrupted the lives of millions, but I have learned to adapt with whatever twists and turns come, because even if that means a $300 Target shopping spree on a Tuesday night, I know it will all be worth it in the end.