Fresh Perspective | Reflecting on Sophomore Year

Fresh Perspective is a biweekly blog about typical college experiences made strange by the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Julia Smeltzer, Staff Writer

Eight months of classes, endless all-nighters in Hillman and a million memories later, my sophomore year of college is coming to an end. It seems like just yesterday I was moving into my dorm room for my first year of college, and now with almost two years under my belt, I have had a lot of ups and downs that got me to where I am today.

On a good note, this was my first year of in-person classes since March of 2020. Coming into college during my first year, the only type of classroom I knew on campus was my dorm room. Something positive that came out of this year was being able to go back into the classroom. Even though some days I wish classes were still online so I could stay in my bed a little longer, I was glad to be able to have a sense of normalcy back in terms of my education. I was able to form deeper relationships with some of my professors and make friends in my classes, something that was hard to do behind a screen during my first year. 

Things got even better when Pitt lifted the mandatory mask mandate in March. It finally felt like things were going back to normal, and I’m grateful that I was able to experience part of my sophomore year with in-person classes while being able to see the people behind the masks that I had class with.

It also would be impossible to talk about the highlights of my year without mentioning the great experiences I had watching Pitt football take the field this season. As a football fanatic, I was disappointed to have to watch the games on TV rather than in Heinz Field last season. Attending many games as a child, I dreamed of the day when I could sit in the student section and sing “Sweet Caroline” as a student and feel the energy of Heinz Field on a game day. This year I was able to experience that for the first time as a student. Most of my amazing memories from this year revolve around football game days.

My friends and I would wake up and get ready for the game, get to the field early to tailgate and fight for a front spot in the student section. We would take the shuttle back to campus with our voices gone, but with our spirits and energy buzzing through the roof. 

My favorite memory of game days has to be when Pitt won the ACC championship. Even though I wasn’t there in person, I held a watch party at my house with my friends. As soon as Pitt clinched the title, we all ran to campus for an impromptu parade down Forbes Avenue to the Cathedral lawn to celebrate with other students. That night seemed like a dream I didn’t want to wake up from and was hands down my favorite memory of my sophomore year.

Another positive takeaway from my sophomore year was how much I saw myself grow as a person. As I continue with my major, I am starting to find out what I love to do and what I don’t like so much. Growing up, I dreamed of being a teacher and had my heart set on being an education major here at Pitt. 

Now here I am two years into my college education and majoring in media and professional communications, which is completely different from what I had envisioned, but I am loving every second of it. I am still unsure of what my exact path after college looks like, but as of right now, I am working toward new dreams and goals that get me excited about what the future has in store for me.

I also saw myself grow a lot in terms of my relationships with other people and myself. This year I learned how to put my energy toward things and people that are beneficial to me and my growth. I learned that I will not grow in situations that make me feel stuck, including certain relationships with the people around me. Even though it took some very hard situations to learn those lessons, I came out of them stronger and knowing what will help me grow as a person and as a student.

Even with all the good memories and lessons I experienced this year, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. This semester I faced mental challenges like no other and was forced to navigate through those hard times while still trying to focus on school, work and extracurricular activities. 

As I noted in a previous article, I’ve had to deal with a lot of grief this year for the first time in my life. Not knowing how this would impact my mental health, especially in college, I faced some really hard times this semester still trying to figure my way around grief. Many nights were spent crying in my bed, overcome with anxiety and sadness as the process of grief and the overbearing stress of school was too much to handle at one time. 

As I experienced the same stress the majority of college students face throughout the semester, some days were harder to get through than others. But one thing I learned from this year is to just put one foot in front of the other and that tomorrow is a new day. Once I remembered that, the days when I felt anxious or sad seemed to go by a little faster and I was able to cope with the emotions I was feeling in a healthy way.

As my sophomore year comes to a close, it is bittersweet to say goodbye. I’ve had some great memories and accomplished things I never saw myself doing, but also experienced tough lessons that I know will make me a stronger person at the end of the day. As time flies by, I can say I am excited for my next chapter at Pitt, but want time to slow down just a bit to enjoy every moment while I can.

Julia Smeltzer writes primarily about mental health and college experiences. You can reach her at [email protected].