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Looking Back: Second Semester Junior Year

The second semester of my junior year at The University of South Carolina is certainly one that I will never forget. Partly due to the fact that my semester was basically cut in half due to a global pandemic (that's going to make for an interesting story for my future kids one day, wow) but also because even though I only got to spend seven weeks of the semester in Columbia, they were seven busy weeks filled with lots of memories. 

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that the next time I'm in Columbia it will be for my senior year. UofSC just recently announced that we will be returning for in-person classes in the fall which I am so excited about, but I know that things will definitely be different than they have been in the past. This past semester and for my last two semesters at Carolina, I don't have any classes on campus as they are all in schools in surrounding communities, so I'm not sure what that means for me but I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that my student teaching will still take place!


The first notable memory of spring semester was my 21st birthday. My birthday fell on a Monday this year which was not exactly ideal as my sorority has chapter on Monday nights and I taught on Tuesday mornings so I was always in bed super early, BUT I was able to convince a few of my roommates to go out with my after chapter so I could order a drink. I celebrated with a glass of Sangria from Publico (a must-visit when in Columbia!).

Later on in January, I had my 21st birthday party. My best friend from home, Lauren, drove all the way from Ohio to spend this weekend with me which made this night extra special. My roommates also made me the most "Riley" 21st sign you could imagine. Signs are a big thing for 21st birthdays at Carolina (not so much at other schools, a lot of my friends from home had no idea why I had this big boa and sign around my neck all night!)

This semester was also the semester that I had my first teaching internship (basically student teaching, just more shadowing as it was my first one!) I was placed in a 4th-grade classroom and immediately fell in love with the school I was at and loved getting to know each of my students.

I had my internship on Wednesday's (half days) & Thursday's (full days) and although I had to get up at 4:45am in order to get ready and make it to school by 7:10am every morning (it was a solid 45-minute drive from my apartment on campus) it was SO worth it. I also loved getting to wear "teacher" outfits and documented them daily on my Instagram stories (shameless plug, click HERE to follow me!)

February brought a spontaneous, last-minute decision to visit Lauren at Ohio University and fill-in as her sibling for OU's siblings weekend. Thankfully, I didn't have Friday classes so I woke up and left Columbia at 6am to drive to Athens, Ohio and loved getting to experience OU life (only seemed fair considering I made her experience USC life only a week earlier) and an added bonus was that a bunch of our friends from home also came down to Athens for the weekend so I got to see so many of my friends from home which is always nice for my homebody self.

Later that month we celebrated my little's (hi, Katie!) 20th birthday and another one of my roommate's 21st birthdays. A good majority of my friend group turned 21 this semester which is super exciting, hello Sunday brunches with mimosas!

Our sorority only ended up getting to have one function this semester (formal & senior band, unfortunately, were scheduled for later on in the semester which clearly did not end up happening) but we did have a disco-themed function which was a fun theme to get dressed up for. My roommate, Lauren, and I found these matching shirts on Amazon that said "Dancing Queen" and admittedly spent way too much time at the fabric store to make sequin headbands but oh well, did it for the memories (and the pictures).

At this point in the semester, talk about the Coronavirus was becoming more and more common and serious but it was nothing that we were super worried about. Little did I know that the photo below would be the last teacher outfit I would take for the semester and would end up being my last day with my sweet fourth graders.

The first week of March was my spring break and because mine didn't match with my younger brother's, I just decided to go home for the week. My best friend, Lauren, was also home on her spring break and we kicked off our break with the Dan + Shay concert. If you know Lauren & me then you know how much we LOVE Dan + Shay. This concert was hands down one of the best ones I've ever been too and I'm so fortunate that we were able to see them as Columbus ended up being one of the last tour stops they played because later on that week was when everything started to get serious with COVID-19.

About halfway through my spring break was when universities across the country began to extend their spring breaks or completely cancel in-person classes for the remainder of the semester. Within several hours, all of my friends from home had found out they would be completing the remainder of their semesters virtually, meanwhile South Carolina wasn't saying anything. When USC finally did announce something, it was just that they had extended our spring break an additional week.

My family was heading down to Hilton Head the next week for their spring break and because I didn't have classes, I joined them. Things were still very uncertain at this time but there was no restrictions on travel, and if there were any travel restrictions, we wouldn't have gone.

It was while we were in Hilton Head that everything started to take a turn for the worst. South Carolina did not announce until late that week that we wouldn't be returning to school that semester. Waiting for this decision to be made caused my anxiety to skyrocket, seriously, ask my family, I was a basketcase. I had a lot of loose ends at school that I had planned to tie up after returning from break and when I when all of these extended breaks and closings started to occur, I panicked.

Fortunately, everything worked itself out with everything I was worried about with my classes. On our way home to Ohio, we stopped in Columbia where I packed up what I needed from my apartment for the remainder of the semester and the summer.

This was really bittersweet for me. I love being home and was grateful that I was able to spend this time with my family, but I was also devastated that the second half of my junior year was no longer going to happen. I never got to say goodbye to my roommates (we still talk daily but one more hug would have been appreciated) and I never got to thank my fourth graders for being the sweetest and most supportive group of kiddos.

Thankfully, my family and I are all in good health so while finishing up my junior year in my childhood bedroom is not exactly how I imagined things, I'm just grateful that I still had the chance to complete my school online and am still set to graduate on time.

And now I'm on summer break. *FINGERS CROSSED* I get to be a camp counselor again this summer and see all of my campers next month but for now, I'm just taking things day by day.

Junior year, while a wacky one, was another one for the books. Senior year is definitely going to look different than expected but it's going to be a blast, after all, I have to make up for lost time.


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