Today would have been my college graduation. I would have woken up early in the morning to get ready and change into my cap and gown. I would have taken photos with my parents and grandparents on campus—commemorating the fact that I am the first from my family to graduate with a four-year degree. By noon, I would have walked across the stage and received my Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and Spanish.
Instead, I’ll probably wake up late in the afternoon, get some work done, go for a walk, and watch cooking shows on Netflix. And instead of a five-hour graduation ceremony to bring closure to the last four years, I will simply receive my diploma in the mail.
Though I’m a bit disappointed, I’ve been trying to look on the bright side ever since I received word that I had just a few days to pack up four years of life on my college campus. And like everyone else right now, I’ve been trying to find a new “normal” as we work to flatten the curve on the global pandemic.
Life Before Quarantine
Before quarantine, I was a busy college student double-majoring in neuroscience and Spanish. I’ve spent the last three years of college researching for credit in a neuroscience lab, which ended up becoming a part-time job for the second semester of my senior year. I also work part-time as an assistant editor for MONQ, which has been one of my favorite ways to combine my passions for science and writing.
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Unlike many other seniors, my last semester of college featured a heavy course load of 21 credit hours. So, most of my days were spent in class, in the lab, at the gym, studying, or frequenting Starbucks too many times a day for my own good. Any other year, I would have been stressed, but this semester I had finally gotten into a groove. I had found a good work-life balance, made some great friends, connected with incredible professors, and found a routine that worked well for me.
After spring break, this all turned upside down. I had one day of class after spring break. Then, in-person classes were canceled until mid-April but students were allowed to remain on campus. I decided to stay on campus and continue my work in the research lab. The next day, in-person classes were canceled through the end of the year, and students had four days to leave campus. So, in just a few days I packed up four years’ worth of memories, moved off campus, and began taking my classes online—this became my life during the quarantine.
Life During Quarantine
During quarantine, the routine I had so carefully built up over the course of four years turned upside down. Some of my regularly scheduled classes went online, but others did not meet for the rest of the semester. Suddenly, it was difficult to find structure in my days or motivation to complete the work that had to be completed before the end of the year.
One of my favorite things to do in my free time during college was to go and try new restaurants, and I also tried to go to the gym as much as possible to relax. Both of these options were off the table as quarantine restrictions were put in place, and I had to get back into home cooking or takeout and at-home workouts.
What has kept me going during this time, though, is viewing this situation as an opportunity rather than a setback. Not having my days filled with commuting between classes or work in the laboratory allowed me to focus on my classes more closely and present some assignments that made me prouder than ever before. It has also given me time to pursue other hobbies that I have neglected because I was busy with school, such as reading and hiking.
Additionally, I realize that this situation is so much bigger than me. Both of my parents are essential workers, and both of my grandparents are in the at-risk group and have extensive histories of pre-existing conditions. So, no matter how bummed I may be about not getting to finish my senior year on campus and getting to walk across the stage to receive my diploma, what we’re all doing allows people like my parents and grandparents to be as safe as possible in their day-to-day lives.
I would have graduated today, but the fact that I’m not walking across that stage does not negate my accomplishments—or the accomplishments of other graduating seniors who are finding themselves in a similar situation. I carry with me the lessons that I have learned, the friends that I have made, and the trajectory for the future that I have been able to create during these four years.
And when quarantine is over, we’ll be able to continue living a life shaped by these accomplishments and with more gratitude for the things we previously took for granted.
Photo credits: fongbeerredhot/shutterstock.com