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Goodbye to the hellos

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I haven’t quite made it to the point where I refer to my childhood home as my “parents’ place.” After all, it looks like I’m going to spend about the same amount of time here that I just spent at Duke. My room is empty. 

I was planning on putting up the photos of my new friends from school that are currently above my desk in Giles, but I guess that will have to wait—I don’t think they’re classified as ‘essential items.’ I knew my first year in college would be full of surprises, but I don’t remember the FAC chat on what to do in the case of a global pandemic. I must’ve slept through that one.

I feel lucky. I’m safe at home with plenty of food. I live on the East Coast, so I don’t even have to worry about waking up early for online classes. There are still three whole years left for me at Duke—plenty of time for more Vondy runs, Loop milkshakes, line checks, bench burnings— yet, I feel thrown to an ending that I wasn’t ready for. 

The first time I arrived at the East Campus bus stop during Blue Devil Days, which were less than a year ago, someone said it looked like a movie set. I still think it does, in a way, with its munchkin-sized streets and Jeffersonian facade. And my movie there, like many of my classmates’, was a good one. I found wonderful friends for smushing into Marketplace booths, studied at the Coffeehouse, almost got hit by the C1 more times than I can count, and constantly ran into people who, somehow, I knew. 

I’m never going to do my routine trip from Giles to Marketplace again—a stroll marked with unending laughter, sometimes intermittent sprinting, and a lot of friends that I didn’t know existed six months ago. I’ll never again lay out on the dorm bench and watch as everyone returns home from their afternoon classes on West. I won’t get to re-experience the chaos of trying to get dinner equivalency right at 9 p.m. Much like the C1X to the C1, it’s stuck behind.

Despite my short stint there, I quickly realized that Duke, for better or worse, likes to facilitate finding a place on campus. Like many first-years, and other students I’m sure, I’m definitely still on a search for mine. For now, that search is on pause. But inside the pause is an end to the introductions. There are so many unsaid “hellos.” So many missed conversations of “I think I’ve seen you around before!” There’s so much that could happen, if I weren’t in my empty room in my childhood home. I think there’s a certain goodbye in that.

Hana Stepnick is a Trinity first-year.

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