I am certain that any and everyone reading this must be well acquainted with the stark difference between expectations and actual ground reality. YouTube itself has a plethora of specimens ranging from ‘Online Shopping: Expectations vs. Reality’ to videos depicting life in a pandemic. As expected, college life in a pandemic makes for one heck of an inimitable experience. Hardly anyone currently alive would have lived through previous pandemics to be familiar with such events, so this is all new to almost everyone. Actually, deeming it an unwanted experiment with quirky permutations and combinations being figured out over the past one year would be more apt.
With some predictions, a little experience, and a lot of ‘college life’ to figure out, there are but a few definite conclusions one can draw. If I am to go back to my expectations of college, they undoubtedly revolved around being in college, spending time in the library, hurrying to make it to breakfast, learning how to ‘adult’, and enjoying with friends. Well, mostly. I also expected rushing to actual classes, feeling that slight sense of dread every time I would have to give a presentation before people, and zoning out for a few minutes before class each morning. And the essential human element: the usual chatter and chaos of classes, of young people stealing some laughs between classes, of whispers and of suppressed giggles, all of that too. Maybe even a few treks with friends. Things most people our age do, usual things. Fun things.
Reality has been entirely different though. We’ve been home since college started (and we definitely don’t want to land solely for offline exams). Most of the proficiency gained has been concerned with successful navigation through Google Meet and Google Classroom, with Google search skills reaching an impressive professional level. There have been no ‘usual college things’, none of the things most of us had in mind before the pandemic started.
But college did reopen for a teeny tiny bit in February, and nearly half of our batch had gone to college for over a month this year, along with the fifth years. Undoubtedly, that is more experience than the other half who have had to choose to be home for various reasons, all the while longing to get to college.
Anyhow, a few people I befriended had gone to college too, and from what I have heard, that period of just a few weeks was enriching, exciting, and had its fair share of drama. My friends have formed some pretty solid bonds with the others they’ve met and that is perhaps, the start of some lifelong friendships. Sukeshi tells me that when she finally went to college after some convincing at home, her expectations of college saw some initial setbacks when her good friends decided to not join college at the time. The first week was slightly sad and boring, but the following days were “unbelievably fun and resourceful”. She is one of the many who were sad to be leaving in March, after a brief stay. I would whisper a ‘something is better than nothing’, but knowing how much she misses those days, I’ll just let it be.
Chaitanya shared a similar view. He had been to a residential school before, so hostels weren’t new to him, but he was looking forward to college and the freedom that came with the tag of a college student. His expectations of college were fairly met when he went to AIL in March and he misses the actual classroom experience, the mess, the college routine, and the drama (he misses that the most, I know). Like most of us, he didn’t, and still doesn’t, want to continue with online classes. Here’s to hoping colleges safely reopen soon and we finally get to connect with our batchmates, instead of connecting to the WiFi like some sort of e-zombies.
Another friend, Simran, who has sailed the same boat as me: AIL Stay Homebuddies, puts her college expectations vs. reality very accurately as:
“Day in and out
through the mixed array,
who had thought
the days to cherish
were far too away,
screens and phones
in lieu of those
you wish were close,
beyond the parallel,
as you wonder.”
Perhaps it is for the best that we salvage the most of all the AIL tales we hear from seniors, make notes, and virtually try to figure out college hacks, while we are at home. Maybe our batch will have an arsenal loaded with the choicest of tricks for virtual and physical college. I mean, who knows? Uncertainty and the speculation of possibilities aren’t new to humankind.
Summing up, this is what the first year has been like for the Batch of 2025, some have had the best of both worlds, and some haven’t. Some got to see the college, some saw the gates in pictures too. Some felt like adults for a bit, some watched people adulting on Netflix at home. But it is what it is, for better or for worse.
This article has been written by Sakshi, Ist year