Black Curtain: The new normal

A reflection on a first year of college cut short due to COVID-19

Freshman Zahria Hart reflects on her first year of college that was cut short by the COVID-19 outbreak. Photos provided
Freshman Zahria Hart reflects on her first year of college that was cut short by the COVID-19 outbreak. Photos provided

Zahria Hart is a freshman magazine journalism major and writes “Black Curtain” for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper. 

Going into your freshman year of college, there’s this huge feeling of uncertainty. Will this be the moment you realize you relied too much on your parents? What if your dream of being a news anchor turns out not to be what you wanted? Or will rooming with a complete stranger be a bad idea? 

There were so many questions I thought of, but I can bet none involved a pandemic. 

I was at the Bookmark Cafe in Bracken Library, trying to remember the equations for rate of return and surplus for my finance class when I got the email — the email that let all students and staff know beginning Monday, March 16 there would be no in-person classes. 

Then, a week later, I found out all of Ball State’s residence halls would be closed. And just like that, my freshman year began to end. 

The events and games I planned to go to, now all canceled. The friends I made, I had to say goodbye to for now, along with my new-found freedom.

I panicked. 

How did my once-normal school year get flipped upside down and cut short? As much as I wanted to sit and ponder, there was no time. It felt like every two seconds, I was receiving emails from stressed professors about their plans to finish the semester. Then, constant texts and calls from my parents bombarding me with questions and concerns and of course, social media posts with both angry and relieved students. 

This was something completely new, and, to be honest, I had no idea what I was doing.

Packing up was the worst part. It felt like I had to pack up the whole life I created for myself during my freshman year and move back home, even though I wasn’t ready to yet. Of course, every student probably had these feelings no matter their year, but it seems worse when it’s your first year. I knew eventually I was going to have to force myself to get it together, but a month and two weeks early was too soon. This is the first time I am going to abandon my way of life at school and go back to my way of life with my parents. 

Freshman year was supposed to be the start of my journey — the time for exploration and finding myself, especially because I'm in that highly-coveted period of my life where experimentation and enjoyment of friends and peers is always on my agenda. Now, I’m back under the roof and rules of my parents, where my freedom is put on hold. 

Going into week four of being at home and doing online classes, I have a new normal. Gladly, now I don’t actually have to roll out of  bed and walk to class, but making myself sit down at my computer for a 50-plus-minute lecture? Brutal. 

College was my main drive to meet whatever goals or dreams laid waiting in my future; it pumped some life into me. But, without my normal academic environment, I don’t feel that drive anymore. When I’m in the comfort of my own home with nowhere to go, it’s challenging to find something to motivate and drive me. 

I spent my birthday two weeks ago indoors all day. I no longer get to spend time with my two best friends from college during the week, and I have now completed three seasons of the MTV series “Teen Wolf” these past several weeks. 

As much as this all is, I’m just going to have to make peace that this is going to be the new normal for a little while. Hopefully, when classes do start up again, I’ll be carried out of this sluggish, lifeless volcano, ready to explode with life into my sophomore year. 

There’s still a huge feeling of uncertainty, especially today, but I guess that’s just life for us all right now, and that is OK. All of our years were cut short, and no matter where we are, I hope this will band our Cardinal family together. 

Contact Zahria with comments at


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