opinion

OPINION: COVID-19 stole my last semester of college



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An empty path is pictured April 8 by the Frances Morgan Swain Student Building. Carl Cote

I woke up today around 8:30 a.m., even though I don’t really need to. It’s not like I have anywhere to go because of Indiana's stay-at-home order. But I try to keep a routine despite all the changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I work out in my bedroom at 9:30 a.m., lifting bags filled with books instead of barbells. The campus gyms closed weeks ago. 

I go for a quick run around 11 a.m., jogging down Woodlawn Avenue and past the Indiana Memorial Union. I don’t think I’ve ever seen campus so empty.

I shower and eat breakfast, and then I log onto Zoom and wait for my professor to start sharing his screen. Learning probability theory and participating in class discussions over the Internet is not my favorite learning experience, but I make do.

This is not how my senior year was supposed to end.

For me, and for millions of college seniors around the country, this was supposed to be our victory lap. One final opportunity to interact with our professors, cement our legacy on campus and participate in the dumb college activities that lead to lifelong memories.

This was also supposed to be one last chance to say goodbye. I wanted to say goodbye to the institution that has welcomed me these past four years, the faculty that have guided and encouraged me and the friends who are moving across the country after graduation.

In some sense, I am lucky. This pandemic has brought sickness and death to thousands of people and their families around the world. It is a privilege to have the severity of the crisis made evident by the alteration of my spring semester rather than the illness of a loved one.

But I do not feel lucky.

I feel a sense of loss and mourning for what my fellow seniors and I will no longer be able to experience. I am mourning for our last classes on campus and freshman year reunions. I want $2 Tuesdays, Little 500 and commencement among the May blossoms.

What really stings is that years of hard work will not bring the ending that so many students deserve. 

The students graduating this spring have earned the right to call themselves IU alumni, and that will happen next month regardless of canceled plans. But receiving our degrees is not the same as celebrating our commencement.

We deserve to cross that stage — the finish line to our college careers. Our years of hard work merit one final celebration in front of friends and family. This May I would have been the first grandchild my Papa and Nana got to see graduate college. So many others would have their own special reason for cherishing those memories. Now all we can do is wait and hope the postponed graduation ceremony is not canceled entirely.

If it sounds like I’m complaining a lot, that’s because I am. Seniors have been shorted the last few months of our college experience, and that loss is tough to swallow. 

So to my fellow members of IU’s "Bicentennial Class," complain. Grieve. Tweet about how unfair it all feels. Do whatever you need to in order to process this moment. 

In the meantime, make the best of this situation. Host a Zoom $2 Tuesday or start making plans for the next Little 500. We were robbed of our memories — let’s make new ones instead.

And to everyone else, please be understanding. We feel we’ve lost an essential part of our college experience, and this loss will take time to process.

Christian Sayers (he/him) is a senior studying mathematics and economics. He hopes to someday own a large rabbit.

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