Graduating seniors are reflecting on their time in college as they approach graduation.
The university returned to in-person classes this past fall, however, due to a spike in covid cases, winter graduation was canceled. We can finally expect to see black gowns, tassels and red stoles around campus again. The pandemic affected every single person on campus. Many students described it as though they felt something ripped away from them. Cole Alderman, a senior government and politics and history major, said , “It was difficult to make the transition from in-person classes, no mask, [a] lively student population with tens of thousands of people on it, to a… ghost town.” A “ghost town” is the perfect way to describe the desolate place the university became last year.
Emily Reynolds, a criminology and criminal justice senior, said, “I feel like it's definitely taken a hit to my social life because we missed what a year and a half or more of being able to hang out with friends and football games.”
Studying abroad is a huge reason students choose certain fields and taking that ability away from students, who are near an international hub like Washington D.C., has led to life-altering decisions for graduating seniors. Leah Atkins, a senior government and politics major, finds her professional life was turned upside down. “I was going to study abroad, and I couldn't anymore,” Atkins said. “I don't know what would have happened if I studied abroad. And the experiences I would have had. I can't think about that now.”
Kinesiology senior Jamie Talbert needs a lot of hands-on experience, as a pre-med student, to secure her dream career. But during the pandemic there wasn’t much she could do.
“For a while we could not shadow doctors or get a job in healthcare as offices and hospitals were limited in capacity,” Talbert said. “I have had to get jobs during the semester and this upcoming summer to catch up on patient hours I need for graduate school..” Students not only had to work on finishing their degree, but had formative years of their life taken away.
“I think it also forced seniors to… grow up very quickly,” said Atkins. “I think that's why a lot of us just aren't as upset about graduating as other classes.”
She continues, “What matters is like, are you enjoying your life? Are you spending time with people you love? Because that can change very quickly, as we saw.”
As young professionals enter the workforce many seniors' goals and priorities have changed and adapted. “It shifted me to think that working from home, virtual working is a bigger possibility with government and other jobs that I’m looking at,” Alderman said. “It’s definitely an open door that wasn’t open before the pandemic, very cost-efficient in terms of saving money.”
When students were asked about what advice they would give to rising seniors, they were all optimistic about the future, and everyone wants students to be as well.
Talbert gives some insight for rising seniors, “One piece of advice for rising seniors would be to not be afraid to ask for help. Whether that be your counselors, friends, a therapist, etc, people are here to help guide you.”
Students leave campus feeling bittersweet this semester. Their lives are completely different than they pictured their freshman years, with a future they can’t wait to explore.