The IU class of 2021 had a sudden end to their junior year, and a senior year full of restrictions — even their college graduation was altered because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Graduating college doesn’t just mean receiving a diploma — there are many traditions that seniors partake in before they graduate from IU. This could be taking graduation photos in front of the Sample Gates, going on a bar crawl with friends before graduation or even just jumping in Showalter Fountain one last time.
Seniors were unable to experience these traditions the same as previous graduating classes did. Many seniors tried to make the most of this year, even if it was under less than ideal circumstances.
“This year I regenerated myself and decided to stop being lazy and I feel like I’ve been happy this year and made the most of the time here with my friends,” senior Jake Toppen said. “You can either sit around and be negative about it or enjoy your last year of college.”
Some graduates, including Toppen, decided not to go to the commencement ceremony because their parents could not attend the ceremony.
“I think I would go to graduation if we weren’t in a pandemic but I didn’t want to because my family is coming down and I can go take pictures and celebrate with them instead of sitting at a ceremony,” Toppen said.
The class of 2021 did not get to experience any of their classes in person this year except for a select number of hybrid classes.
“Senior year was definitely harder because I missed out on in-person classes and opportunities to meet new friends,” Toppen said. “A lot of my friends I met during in-person classes.”
The class of 2021 not only missed out on academic opportunities, but social opportunities as well. Many of the local hotspots shut down or changed their policies because of COVID-19.
“I feel what I missed out on the most during the pandemic was the bar life,” Toppen said. “When you turn 21 you want to go out and celebrate with friends and Bloomington is a place where you celebrate.”
Although the numerous restrictions and switching to an online environment brought many negative experiences, it also brought positive opportunities for some people too. Students were encouraged to spend more time outside with friends, schedules were more flexible with online classes and some classes were more laid back with open-note exams.
“I enjoyed making so many new friends from my apartment complex this year,” Toppen said. “None of us could actually go out so I met so many new people this year that I probably wouldn’t have met if it wasn’t for the pandemic.”
IU’s class of 2021 had their graduation ceremony Saturday along with some members of the class of 2020. Graduating in a pandemic is not easy, so congratulations classes of 2021 and 2020! Although your senior year was not how you imagined it would be, you still have good memories during your time at IU to look back on. With your degree in hand, you can look forward to your future full of endless opportunities.
Olivia Franklin (she/her) is a sophomore studying journalism with a minor in political science. She is currently a member of the swim club at IU.