Here’s What It’s Really Like to Be a College Senior During COVID-19

And how I’m staying hopeful through everything.

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woman holding decorated graduation cap in road
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When I envisioned my last semester of college, I never could have imagined it would look like this.

Like many people around the world, my life and routine today is a lot different than it was six months ago. To be honest, I’m still coming to terms with the end of my college career being under these circumstances.

Today, I wanted to share what it’s like to be graduating college in the age of a global pandemic. There’s been some good, some bad, and a lot of… weird.

I’m sure you all can relate.

Like many people, life took a drastic turn for me in March.

Our spring break was supposed to run from March 7th-15th. So I went home for spring break and I never went back to school. My University extended our spring break a week then switched to online classes only for the remainder of the semester.

For me, switching to online classes wasn’t hard. I already had three of my five courses online. So adding two more wasn’t difficult. Instead, I’ve struggled with everything I’ve missed as a result.

Most of my friends graduated last year, and although I gave them graduation presents and wished them luck, we never really gave each other a proper goodbye. It’s something I have regretted since and vowed to change this year.

But now I won’t be getting those proper goodbyes at all.

I was hoping this year that I could say goodbye to everyone who helped me, especially my friends, classmates, and professors. That’s not an option anymore, and it makes me sad when I think about it.

cursive goodbye painted on blue background
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Of course, there’s nothing I can do about this, nothing I could have done differently. I never thought that I’d be finishing out my college experience from home or that my graduation would be cancelled because of the pandemic. I don’t think anyone expected it.

Even talking to my family members, none of them have ever experienced anything like this. The only person I know who has gone through something similar is my boyfriend who was fifteen in 2010 when H1N1 swept through his hometown in Brazil.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that the world will be different now, even after a vaccine and the initial outbreaks/peaks clear up. I think that’s true. Everything feels like it’s irreparably changed and I don’t think we will be able to “just go back to the way things were.”

In the meantime, I’m mourning the semester I was supposed to have. As is true for most of us, my plans have been cancelled and changed.

I was going to attend the Sigma Tau Delta International conference in Las Vegas at the end of March. That was cancelled my first week of spring break. I was going to go to Brazil with my boyfriend in the middle of May after my graduation to meet his family and friends. I cancelled that flight last week.

My friends and I in St. Louis Missouri at the Sigma Tau Delta conference last year.

I was looking forward to a lot of things in 2020. Especially graduating and finding a job, and traveling. Most of those things may not happen now.

As of right now, my graduation ceremony is only postponed, but I think it’s safe to say that I might not get to have one. I’m still looking for work, virtually, which is a struggle to say the least with so many people unemployed and businesses facing such uncertainty. And travel? Well, we all know that’s not happening for a while.

Some good has come out of this isolation, though. I’ve been cooking a lot more (thanks, Youtube!), and completing all the half-done projects I didn’t have time to finish, including updating my living room. I finally have a gallery wall (which took me 2.5 years to complete). I might even dye my hair later today because no one but my roommate will see it if I mess up.

Isolation has been okay. Then again, I miss my friends and family, and having a routine and things to look forward to.

Woman reading indoors

It’s been hard. I think everyone can agree that living through something like this is really difficult and it changes you, no matter what.

I know that I’m not the same girl I was in January or even at the start of March. I worry, a lot, about basically everything. Money, getting sick, my family staying safe, and keeping myself safe are always thoughts at the front of my mind.

But I also know I’ll get through this.

Staying optimistic especially while there’s a global pandemic happening is hard. I don’t even think “hard” is a word that can describe it. The mental aspect of this is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. But I am hopeful that everything will get better. Actually, I’m positive that things will someday be OK again.

With everything that’s happening, people are still finding ways to come together. My mom learned how to use Skype so she could talk to her family, (well, technically my brother set up the call — still counts). People are holding virtual happy hours and game nights and taking the time to thank those on the front lines.

We’re still all supporting each other, through all of this madness.

painting of colorful hands
Via Unsplash

So if you’re feeling scared and alone right now, it may be comforting to know that a lot of other people are, too. It’s totally okay.

Everything is new and strange and scary right now and it’s totally fine to not be okay. But the best way to get through all of this is by doing things that make you happy and keeping in touch with those you love.

person holding note that reads phone a friend.
Via Unsplash

Even just sending a text to your friends or your family members and asking how they’re doing can make things a little better. I know talking to others, finishing projects, and watching Netflix is the only way I’m getting through most of this.

So, yes, senior year is a lot different from what I had imagined when I stepped on campus four years ago.

I miss my friends, and my professors, and even the overpriced coffee I’d get once a week. But I know it’s safer for everyone right now to be home if they can. Every time I get bitter or sad, or annoyed, at everything that’s happening (which is a lot) I have to remind myself that this is how we all stay safe. This is how we all get through this.

I think about my grandparents, or my younger cousins and I realize how glad I am that they’re not out there, getting exposed. They’re safe, at home. Maybe bored, but safe, and right now I would give up hundreds of graduations or trips to keep it that way.

So if you’re feeling like you got cheated out of this year, well, same.

But you should also know that what you’re doing now, whether it’s staying home or working on the front lines, you’re helping so many other people. You’re keeping so many safe and for that I thank you.

Stay safe, everyone.

5 thoughts on “Here’s What It’s Really Like to Be a College Senior During COVID-19”

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Rachel. As a graduating senior myself, I’ve struggled with the conflicting feelings you mentioned above and it’s really good to know that I’m not alone. I agree with you that it’s so important to try and squeeze every positive aspect out of this unprecedented, scary time. I’m sorry you are missing out on all of the fun things you planned to celebrate your graduation, but hopefully things will get back to normal soon and this pandemic will teach us to never take a day for granted. I think on the other side of this, we will ultimately become better people. Stay Safe!

    Reply
    • It’s so nice to hear from someone else who’s going through all of this. I’m hoping that things will clear up soon, but even if they don’t at least we now know the importance of celebrating the little things. I hope you’re doing okay in this crazy time as well. Stay safe.

      Reply
    • Isolation is really important to keep everybody safe. I’m practicing it every time I leave my apartment, and I fully support others who are doing it. Social distancing is definitely the best way to keep safe right now.

      Reply
  2. Thanks for this great post)
    Since the beginning of the quarantine it was been very difficult for me to concentrate my attention on learning and catch up on with procrastination. But then I have started to make my morning as productive as possible, put on nice clothes and do make up for a better mood. In the evenings I always have video-calls with my friends.
    And it’s really effective – now I have an excellent training schedule even better than before quarantine!

    Reply

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