Living in the Virtual School Year

Living in the Virtual School Year

This past year was so different than most of us could have ever imagined. Living in “the virtual school year” posed a plethora of challenges, but at the same time, it opened the door to new possibilities. As a society, we learned how to better operate in a virtual world, and as individuals, we had time for new endeavors. For myself, this meant taking the leap of faith to move away from home and live with some fellow Techers. While I had already had the experience of moving away from home and coming to live in the Caltech houses, this was quite different. Instead of living in organized student residences with hundreds of other students, a meal plan, and tons of support resources, I was about to go live with just 5 other people (some of which I did not know super well) and we had to find and manage our own housing, food, and necessities.

Over the course of three quarters, we lived in Lake Arrowhead, CA, Ann Arbor, MI, and Running Springs, CA. While living on our own wasn’t always easy, I’m glad that I lived with other Techers this past year. These housemates have become some of my best friends, including fellow Admissions Ambassador and blogger, Chase Blanchette! Look for a blog coming from Chase soon where he talks more about the experience of living in different places over the past year!

Group Picture at Lake Arrowhead House

For fall term, 6 of us lived in Lake Arrowhead, CA in a decently-sized AirBnB. Lake Arrowhead is in the San Bernardino Mountains, so we were quite far away from any large cities and mostly surrounded by trees, mountains, and wildlife. As this was our first term living together, we established a cooking schedule, organized a spreadsheet to manage our shopping lists, and generally learned how to live together.

Figuring out how to live together was difficult at times because we were all extremely busy with the Caltech workload. I always felt like there was more work to do, so I didn’t want to think about other things like cooking or cleaning, but these were necessities. There were also times when we ran into unforeseen problems like the power shutting off for a whole day. Imagine waking up at 8:45am for your 9am Zoom lecture, only to find out that you have no power. That means no Wi-Fi, and since we were in the mountains, I did not have good enough cell reception to join the lecture on my phone. Our professors were accommodating and it ended up being okay, but I was quite stressed at the time.

I think the biggest reason why everything ended up okay was that I was living with such a great group of people. Regardless of the problems we faced, everyone worked together and made compromises for others. We also had a lot of fun in our free time (free time was sparse, but it still existed). The basement had a massive couch, TV, and arcade machine, so we would hang out down there and watch shows like The Mandalorian.

Group Picture at Ann Arbor House

For winter term, 7 of us (our group grew!) lived in Ann Arbor, MI in a giant house (there were like 6 bathrooms?!?). To get there, I took a road trip from San Francisco all the way to Ann Arbor with two of the other people I was living with, which was a super fun time. This was my first time living in another state, and compared to the areas of California that I was used to, Michigan was flat, cold, and snowy. It was a neat place to live though, and with the giant University of Michigan nearby, I was reminded of how small Caltech really is.

Lastly, for spring term, 4 of us came back to California to live in Running Springs, CA, which is near Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino Mountains. With COVID-19 restrictions easing up around this time due to the introduction of the vaccine, we were also able to say hi to some friends living in Pasadena on some weekends! Overall, the past year was certainly not what I expected, but I still was able to have an amazing time due to my peers at Caltech, both those who I was living with and those who I interacted with virtually. I made a video with pictures from the whole year to show a quick glimpse into what life was like, which you can view here: