At the beginning of this school year, I was as excited as anyone else to be a college senior. The idea of two more semesters of hard work, overnight study sessions, and career planning seemed great, considering in May I would be set for that next step in life.
By the start of this spring semester, I was receiving email after email about graduation. My peers and I talked at length about our plans for the future, excited to graduate and find our paths in the journalism field.
By midterms, we were ready to take a week off for spring break to relax, recharge, and get face the home stretch of our college experience. By this point, we expected two more months in the halls of Lincoln University: one last round of classes, eight more weeks to study with friends, and countless last-minute advice from our professors.
When our spring break was extended by a week, Missouri was beginning to see the impact COVID-19 was having on the country. In addition to unprecedented changes in the way state government and businesses operated, schools and universities faced similar challenges. Considering many students had gone home or out-of-state for the break — and taking into account the trends of other colleges in the area — it was decided by what would have been the first day of my final eight weeks of college that the university would move to online courses.
It’s odd to think about leaving that campus behind so early and switching to a whole new method of learning right at the end of things, though I understand the need for it. I’m thankful to be able to finish out the semester remotely, but something still feels missing.
I’ve lived in this area my whole life and commuted to campus during my time at Lincoln. However, many of my friends traveled for spring break to their homes all over the country, only to find out that they would not be returning to campus. Students across the country are struggling to get their belongings from their dorms due to travel and interaction restrictions.
While I have several friends from high school who went away from home for college and are now back with their families during this time of isolation, it doesn’t take much scrolling through social media to find posts about missing their campuses, their friends, and their classes.
It must be a difficult time to be a professor as well, especially for those who have never had to navigate an online class. Shifting half a semester’s worth of planned lessons and activities is likely a monumental task and can present a fresh set of problems for both instructors and students. Online learning can also be an obstacle for rural Missourians like myself who do not have the most reliable internet connections.
It’s interesting to look back at how so few of the conversations I had with my peers were about the university itself, but rather what would come after. Now, a lot of our talk has changed, centered on finishing our classes from home and leaving those halls behind even earlier than we had thought. Graduating seniors that have called Lincoln home for four years are facing an abrupt shift right at the end of our college experiences, and those I have talked to aren’t quite sure how to feel.
On Wednesday, I received another email regarding graduation. This one notified seniors that commencement had been tentatively rescheduled to the first day of August, shortly before a new school year should begin.
It’s an odd time to be alive, certainly, as unprecedented changes are being made to our way of life as a society — at least for a while. As a student, it’s difficult to face this change and all that it entails right at the end of this chapter in my life. What seemed like a clear path forward for the class of 2020 is uncertain now.
I hope that other schools will follow through on holding graduation ceremonies once it is certifiably safe to do so, to give students a chance to celebrate their achievements and the closing of a pivotal chapter in their lives. I, for one, look forward to celebrating with my family once we make it out of this confusing time.
I’ve always felt my generation has seen many major changes to the world during our lives, and the COVID-19 pandemic is yet another. It’s an odd, disappointing feeling to be so isolated and remote in a time when we would normally be together, experiencing the end of our time in college as we had planned. Hopefully, the class of 2020, along with the rest of the world, can make the best of our current situation and look forward to a time when we can commemorate our hard work and achievements together.