It was March 12th, 2020 when I woke up in a hotel, in Iceland to the news that President Trump was banning all international travel to the United States due to COVID-19. For some reason, maybe my practice with constant high anxiety, I remained calm. I checked my phone and there was a text from my dad in all capital letters,
“THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO US CITIZENS YOU WILL BE ABLE TO COME HOME.”
The next few hours were spent on the phone trying to get in contact with Icelandair to see if they were still planning on flying us out on Saturday, after the ban would be activated. As my title may allude to, we made it back. However, it was not without consequence. Once we landed a tall man in a suit met the flight attendant at the door to the plane with a stack of forms and instructions. Each of us would be taken through customs and individually screened by doctors for Coronavirus.
The last thing I thought I would be coming back from my spring break vacation was social distancing, lockdowns, and quarantine. Behind that, something that I thought I would never ever hear, was that all classes would be moved online and graduation postponed indefinitely.
I cried. I think we all did.
Senior year was supposed to be the time in which I was challenged and pushed to my fullest potential. The year I was supposed to do my best work and prepare to present myself to my peers as an educated and complete individual. At least this was the impression that I had.
I feel robbed.
I feel robbed of my experience. No more bar crawls with my friends, no more quick study sessions on the quad, no more impromptu dance routines in my apartment’s living room, no more political discourse among classmates, no more voices in the hallways, no more seats arranged in a circle, no more dark room powerpoints.
No more graduation. For now.
I put literal sweat and tears into my work alongside using all the physical brain power I was capable of. I’ll be damned if I don’t walk across that stage in front of every person who helped me get through all of it. My friends, my family, fellow students, professors, advisors, and even the random strangers who smiled at me when I needed the boost.
I have been preparing for leaving college, applying to jobs, looking for apartments, buying business casual clothing for interviews I have yet to receive. But nothing could have prepared me for the premature departure and the heartbreak that went along with it.
To all of my seniors, Though we are not where we expected to be, we have achieved so much and I am so proud of what we have accomplished. I feel your tears, I feel your heart aching. This was not how we imagined we would be making history but, we are making it. Class of 2020 will be the strongest class, we will overcome these upcoming obstacles, we will get that diploma no matter what. To be a graduate of 2020 is going to mean something.
As I sit in my quarantine waiting for possible symptoms to arise, I think about what my dad said to me on the phone when we landed.
“Welcome back, the world has changed a little bit.”
It hasn’t just changed, it significantly shifted. The way we conduct our life right now is with the utmost caution. We can feel the anxiety and fear in the air we breathe. As we move foreword, closer to the completion of classes, remember to be compassionate and rational. We are all going through it right now, our families, the neighbor, that man walking his dog.