For many, the last semester of college is a time to make our final memories of school, say goodbye to our favorite professors, visit our "spot" on campus for the last time and finally make that walk across the stage at graduation. It is a bittersweet time filled with reflection.
But for students all across the country with graduation dates in May 2020, that all changed in the last few weeks.
I attend The King's College in New York City. Going to college here allowed me to work several internships, study as a journalist in a major news hub and attend art classes at some of the most famous museums in the world. But as my last semester of college comes to a close, I am finishing it from my parents' kitchen in New Hampshire.
On March 10, it was announced students at my school would transition to remote learning through the month of March starting the following day due to increased risk of the coronavirus. Three days later, that was extended through the rest of the semester.
While it didn't come as a surprise exactly, there was still shock. Our school, which had always prided itself on the fact New York City is our campus, told students that it no longer was. International students from Brazil flew home while students from Alaska stayed in the city to avoid having to wake up at 5:00 a.m. for classes. Our once tight-knit community scattered and it was nearly impossible to say goodbye to everyone.
The weight of this moment didn't hit me for several days. I was already taking one class online — why would it feel any different than that? But it did. I realized I couldn't go on campus when I wanted to escape the "real world." I wouldn't get to have that late-night study session with friends where hardly any studying was done. And after putting in four grueling years of work, I might not get to walk at my graduation.
On March 16, I transitioned to working from home in my shoebox apartment. It took less than 24 hours for my last remaining roommate to book an unexpected flight home after all restaurants and bars closed for sit-down service. New York started to feel empty.
Two days later, I packed up my things and headed to catch a bus to my parents' home. By the time I was home with my family, buses to and from New York were suspended, leaving me here in the granite state until further notice.
Being home, my day to day has changed less than I expected it to. My mom often asks me if I am getting stir-crazy or bored. Thankfully, I'm not. Between a part-time job, classes and extracurriculars that can happen remotely, my schedule has remained pretty full. That does come with a downside: I'm not able to help around the house during the day as much as I'd like, but I just have to remind myself that I do still have a job to do.
It's hard to salvage experiences like Spring Formal or celebrating the night before graduation at your favorite bar. We do the best we can through Zoom parties, group calls and social media but when it comes down to it, it is very different.
It's never easy to leave a city or school you love. While I am upset my senior year was cut short and graduation is up in the air, I still fully support my school's decision. As young adults, we have a duty to protect our families and neighbors from contracting COVID-19. Staying home and attending remote classes is one way to do that. Having a college graduation or one last party would never be worth contributing to the loss of someone in my family or neighborhood.
I never expected to finish college in New Hampshire, but here I am. If it means I get to help keep others safe, it will always be worth it.