CORAL SPRINGS, FL - The great irony in much of my student career is the longer I spent in school, the better I got at avoiding it.
I learned how to conveniently catch a cold before a test I didn’t study for and not raise an eyebrow. I mastered the art of using the restroom during class long enough to miss a boring lecture but no so long as to draw suspicion. I would join a whole club just because I knew, in a month, an event would allow me to miss a period of math.
Why then, in the middle of a deadly pandemic where the University of Florida ranks sixth in case numbers out of all colleges, when all of my classes have been indefinitely moved online, and while my parents are strongly wishing I stay home, am I deciding to pay hefty housing fees and spend my fall semester in Gainesville?
It was a decision that was by no means an easy one to make, but there are several reasons behind it.
College is not just an amalgamation of classes, it’s an experience.
I learned just as much about the health field volunteering in a hospital near school as I did taking a class about medical terminology. Going to a library and being surrounded by other students that support and compete with me makes me more focused and motivated.
Living with my roommates, who are some of my closest friends, makes getting through the curriculum so much easier. It is an experience that simply cannot be replicated taking online classes at home. Obviously, the social aspect of college will be nearly nonexistent, but even small (and socially distanced) interactions will help greatly.
There are more tangible reasons as well.
Housing for the spring semester is not guaranteed if it is not secured in the fall, and if the situation gets better, classes that are currently online can be moved to an in-person setting during the fall semester.
Going to college now means avoiding the possible stress and hassle of moving up in the middle of exams.
Both of my parents are also high-risk individuals, meaning that COVID-19 could have devastating effects on them. This alone brings a benefit to living away from home as, if I were to contract the disease, I would be far away from them.
While this year will bear little resemblance to my pre-COVID semesters, I still believe living on campus, while taking the necessary precautions, will make the rewards worth the risks.
Athitheya Gobinathan is the 2019 valedictorian of Coral Springs High School who attends University of Florida.
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