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Shoutout to college students: Hang in there

It’s difficult to believe, but this May will be nine years since I graduated college and burst through the bubble of campus life at Auburn University to the “real world.” My husband and I continued living in Auburn for the next three years while he completed his undergraduate degree and then a master’s degree. We moved to north Alabama in 2015, and since then, we’ve only been back to Auburn a couple of times – and not at all in the past several years.

For Valentine’s Day weekend, we made the trip south to get reacquainted with the “loveliest village on the plains.”

Perhaps, however, we should start calling it the loveliest emerging metropolis on the plains.

OK, OK, it’s no Huntsville, Montgomery, Birmingham or Mobile yet, but we couldn’t believe how much it had grown.

New restaurants have popped up everywhere since the last time we were in Auburn, as have high-rise apartment buildings, along with all kinds of other shops and services.

Campus has grown too, but the main I thing noticed on campus were these signs: “Wear your mask everywhere.”

It was a rainy weekend while we were in town, and the concourses and buildings were nearly deserted – but sure enough, every person we did see was masked up.

I gave a little silent applause for the effort to keep the virus in check, but I couldn’t help but mull on what it must be like to be a college student during a pandemic.

What is it like, sitting in an auditorium class full of a hundred students all in masks? Trying to understand your classmates’ questions and discussion points despite their muffled voices? Having a study group, all masked up? Walking from class to class, navigating a crowded student center, fighting for a sense of normalcy in a time that is anything but normal?

To all our Franklin County college students, I just wanted to say, my heart breaks a little bit for you. You’re not getting to have a normal college experience, and that just stinks.

I know, and you know, that much worse things have happened since this time last year than the inconvenience of wearing a mask. People have lost their lives to this virus. We’ve nearly all lost a loved one, or dealt with weeks or months of the illness, or lost our jobs, or had to find a new way to – just to deal with life, on a daily basis.

That’s pretty heavy, and most days, wearing a mask has been the least of our hardships.

And yet, still, in imagining myself back in my own college student days, I just felt such sadness for what today’s college students are going through. Whether you’ve been forced into remote classes or are pushing through the challenge of on-campus learning in pandemic times, it’s rough.

Whether you’re at Northwest-Shoals, UNA, the University of Alabama, my own alma mater or any number of other colleges – hang in there. Better times are coming, and we’re all going to get through this.

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