This article continues a three-part retrospective about the freshman experience. Read part one here. Check out this Spotify playlist to enhance your reading experience. 

Simone Mansell / Daily Nexus

Last year was my freshman year at UC Santa Barbara. Toward the end of the year, I wrote a three-part piece, each part reflecting on my experience during every quarter. We have decided to publish each part during each corresponding quarter this academic year. So, as we begin a new winter quarter, please enjoy my reflections from Winter Quarter 2022, my second quarter at UCSB. 

I know I don’t have much to compare it to, but I have come to the conclusion that Winter Quarter 2022 was absolutely the worst quarter of my life. This wasn’t something I realized until a little more than halfway through, after a series of unfortunate events that could be compiled into a manuscript and adapted into its own young adult book series. 

Here’s a list of all the wonderful events that have transpired since the new year of 2022.

  1. I got COVID-19 during the first four weeks, during which classes were thankfully online, but unenjoyable nonetheless.
  2. Being back at home, I was again immersed in my Passion v. Profit debate, arguing with my family about what I should really do with my degree. These were intense, circular, emotionally-draining arguments. 
  3. Biostatistics.
  4. The first biostatistics midterm (I needed to whip out the UCSB grade calculator after seeing the score on this one).

And then, my grandfather passed away. 

This is not something that I have shared with many people. It seemed like people had things to do, and not everyone is equipped to handle a situation like this. 

I refused to make my grandfather’s passing about myself. This was something that my mother was dealing with — this was her struggle, not a reason for me to stop working. That’s not what my mother or my grandfather would have wanted.

I tried to finish off the quarter. This isn’t to say that I didn’t allow myself time to grieve. I did, just not enough time. If you miss a week of school in the quarter system, you basically miss five chapters of material for each class, and it doesn’t really matter if you need more time. 

I don’t mean to sound like I put so much pressure on myself, because I don’t believe that’s true. But, that’s what it feels like. Because I’m an emotional person, because my grandfather and I were close and in the context of what’s been going on over there, this was a long time coming. I just didn’t think it would happen at this exact time. I didn’t think I would find out through a phone call, where my mom answered crying and, just like that, I knew.

During those last few weeks, I felt more miserable than I had ever felt before. I didn’t know who I could talk to about it.

My friends here at school were busy trying to finish off the quarter and I didn’t want to put them in an uncomfortable position where they might not know what to say and make both of us feel bad. My friends from home were all busy at their respective schools, and our schedules weren’t synced enough at the time. My mother was with her family in India, trying to cope with the massive loss they were experiencing. And, my father had lost his own dad the year prior.  

After a while, I started hanging out with people again. I knew I hadn’t dealt with his passing in its entirety  —  honestly, I still haven’t  —  but I was OK. I found distractions in the form of my second biostatistics midterm (on which I needed to score at least a 90, according to the UCSB grade calculator), my looming communication paper and a growing number of GauchoCast  Econ 1 lectures. 

I tried to do other things. I covered the Oscar-nominated writer’s panel at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (and received an official press pass to do so, because I write for the Nexus). My UC mascot article ran in a Nexus print issue, and the accompanying art is absolutely phenomenal. I hung it up in my dorm room. I pitched this article at an Opinion meeting. I continued to discuss my highs and lows of the week with my fellow social committee members. I applied for some internships that never ended up getting back to me. I started working out again, around dead week (perfect timing), just because I can. I also began writing creatively again, for myself this time. 

This time, the six-hour Amtrak bus ride back to the Bay Area is not filled with optimistic thoughts about the upcoming spring quarter. Rather, I’m content with the knowledge that I have more to do in Santa Barbara. I like the classes I’m taking next quarter and I await my final grades (maybe not biostatistics, though). 

I’m not sure what spring entails. All I know is that, in a week, I will be back on campus. I’ll adopt a different mindset this time. One where I’ll see what happens, like I’m a character outside my own body, gleaning words off the page. Distanced, yet inevitably invested at the same time. 

Amitha Bhat experienced an interesting start to her 2022, but she made it out to the other end, mostly intact.