Behind the Mask: How a campus squirrel interrupted this freshman’s first day at K-State

On her first day of in-person classes, Krista Else, freshman in nutrition and health, made more friends than she expected. (Courtesy photo from Krista Else)

The first day of school is always a little awkward. Everyone has a story of showing up late or walking into the wrong classroom, but for Krista Else, freshman in nutrition and health, it was a little more dramatic than that.

Else’s first in-person class was in mid-September. After a month of online-only classes, she said finally taking a walk to campus was a nice change.

“It was 8 a.m., foggy out and there was nobody on campus,” Else said. “I was having a good walk.”

That was until she felt a weird sensation in her foot, like it had “violently” fallen asleep.

“I look down, and there’s this brown thing on my foot,” Else said. “I thought it was a pinecone at first glance. I was groggy in the morning, I was just so confused.”

What looked like a pinecone was actually a campus squirrel that had attached itself to Else’s foot.

“Its little hands were latched around my ankle, and his whole body was just on my foot,” she said. “I was taking steps, and he was staying on my foot. I was just like, ‘This is actually ridiculous.’ I was kicking my foot to get it off because obviously I did not want it to stay.”

After freeing herself from the squirrel’s grip, Else continued on to class, trying to stay calm.

“I walked into my lab, looking petrified, I bet,” she said. “I didn’t want that to be my first impression on anyone, but you can bet I called my mom right after and told her what happened.”

In such a strange semester, Else said she never expected a story like this to define her freshman year.

“You hear horror stories of first day jitters,” she said. “Well, I’d been doing my classes for a month, but of course the first time I set foot to go to a class, a squirrel latches onto me.”

Overly friendly campus squirrels aside, Else said her transition to college during the pandemic has been stressful, but better than expected.

“Obviously, it’s a huge transformation living on your own,” Else said. “I also rushed, which I was nervous about not picking the right house, and I live in a four-person room, so we’re all over each other while we’re trying to do school work.”

Getting involved in student organizations like STUMO, K-State Proud, Alpha Delta Pi sorority and a Bible study were helpful to avoid feeling isolated, Else said. By getting to know girls in her Bible study, she’s gotten to meet friends of friends and build a circle even with classes mostly online.

“My best memories in high school were meeting people through clubs, so I’ve been repeating that here so far,” Else said.

Making an impression is even easier after her first day of classes. The squirrel story became Else’s go-to during ice breaker.

“My ‘two truths and a lie’ is always insane,” she said. “I tell people I got attacked by a campus squirrel, a zebra broke my finger at age five and I have a brother.”

Good luck guessing the lie.

Academically, Else said her freshman year hasn’t been too hard to manage, and she said sticking to a routine helped keep her priorities in check.

“I stay on top of my stuff,” she said. “My schedule is to get stuff done Monday, Tuesday Wednesday, and I use Thursday and Friday to study. I’m not satisfied until everything is done.”

When the stress of life during the pandemic starts building up, Else said sleep, music and getting out of the house are her favorite ways to cope.

“Making playlists on Spotify is my favorite thing to do, or sometimes, a good nap works wonders,” she said. “I like to go out to a coffee shop too, like Public Hall or Bluestem, and journal.”

Else isn’t the first to recommend getting out of the house to help ease stress during uncertain times. But if you do go out for a walk, be sure to look out for any unwelcome hitchhikers.