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January 7, 2021
In reflecting upon my college experience so far, I recognize that my first semester looked quite different than usual. Given the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Princeton University conducted a virtual, remote semester. While beginning my undergraduate education virtually from Madison may not have been an entirely ideal scenario, I remain thankful for the opportunity to nonetheless start my college journey, engage with a rich academic program rooted in the liberal arts, and begin to forge important connections with my peers.
One of my biggest takeaways from the semester regards the function and inner workings of research – namely, that academic discourse is deeply and closely connected to the real world and our understanding of it. While some consider academic discourse to be somewhat removed from everyday life, I’ve learned that it represents a real opportunity to contribute to ongoing intellectual discussions surrounding issues of consequence. In that vein, a highlight of the semester was writing a final paper in which I chose to conduct original research regarding media representations of protests for racial justice that occurred in the summer of 2020. Another highlight was learning about the Princeton Net-Zero America Project, a study that delineates viable pathways for the U.S. to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
I’ve also discovered that valuable learning often happens in unexpected ways. My freshman seminar pushed me to explore the boundary between art and life through the creative projects I undertook, such as improvising a piano composition along with the evening sounds of crickets or writing poetry inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic. Outside of academic contexts, I have also begun an advising fellowship with Princeton’s chapter of Matriculate, an organization that supports high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds as they apply to college. My own learning as an advisor very much continues as I prepare to support these students.
In closing, I am quite grateful for the support MCEF has shown through its generous contribution toward my college education. I look forward to exploring the possibilities of the upcoming semester and seeing what the future may hold as I continue this exciting new journey.
MCHS Class of 2020
To say the very least, 2020 has certainly been an unusual year. Marked by a deadly pandemic, I was forced to graduate high school and begin college at a safe distance from my peers. For the majority of summer, I was unsure if I would even be able to begin my first year at the University of Virginia on its historic Grounds. Despite the fact that all of my classes were virtual, I was ultimately allowed to move into my cramped dorm at the beginning of September. The months of uncertainty had heightened my nerves. I was fearful that my college experience during COVID-19 would not be what I had envisioned over the past four years, and I was even more scared that I had made the wrong choice in attending the University of Virginia.
However, my doubts and fears slowly faded away as I immersed myself in club activities and schoolwork. Upon moving on Grounds, I joined a political advocacy group that furthered my passion for shaping a future that is brighter, cleaner, and more equitable for all. In doing so, I was also able to meet people that I now could not imagine my life without! Furthermore, I took a leap of faith in choosing which foreign language to study over the course of my college career. Rather than continuing to study Spanish, I decided to try my hand at American Sign Language (ASL). Over the past semester, ASL and its accompanying Deaf culture have developed from a mere unknown language to a discrete passion of mine. In fact, I am even considering a minor in ASL and Deaf Culture!
Reflecting upon my first semester at the University of Virginia, my college experience has transcended beyond what I previously envisioned for myself. To me, college is about cultivating new passions while fostering passions that already exist. As I balance myself between the new and old throughout the coming years, I will always remain grateful to the Madison County Education Foundation (MCEF) for making my dreams of higher education possible.
– Audrey Cruey, MCHS Class of 2020