An open letter to graduating seniors

Christina Bouri

Christina Bouri is an international relations major from Elk Grove, CA

If someone had told me four years ago that the conclusion of my college career would be defined by a global pandemic, I would not have believed them. And if I had known my last day on campus at University of the Pacific was going to be the day before spring break, I would have made the most of it. I would have visited every corner of campus, said goodbye to every professor and hugged every friend.

Unfortunately, this is the current reality for college seniors across the country. Most of us are speaking in euphemisms — not only because of the pain that we are feeling — because of a degree of guilt. Many of us feel guilty about grieving that we no longer will have in-person commencement ceremonies to look forward to in May and our last semester was snatched away from us so quickly. But our predicament is minuscule compared to that of countless other Americans right now. Yet, I believe it is healthy to recognize our sense of loss and I have begun to recognize these mixed emotions during this transition to remote instruction.

One of the most difficult parts of this transition for me has been time management. I followed a very strict schedule, jam-packed with classes, work and homework every day before the move to remote instruction was made. I feel like everything has been turned upside down and I am still learning how to manage my time.

This conversion has been difficult, but my professors have been spectacular. From the moment the university made the announcement to remote instruction, my professors have checked-in on my peers and me and have even extended deadlines and adjusted syllabi. Many of them — even under their own stressful predicaments — have told students to reach out to them should any obstacles come up that may inhibit their class performance. I do believe the relationship professors have forged with students is one that has led to solidarity during these tumultuous times.

My room has become my new classroom and my home my new university. I now spend 10-12 hours a day on my computer completing class and work assignments. I have been trying my best to adjust and understand that this is my new reality, and one that I will remember vividly in the years to come.

As this new way of life is being further realized, my friends and I hold a daily group FaceTime call. Before the quarantine, we FaceTimed a few times a week, but now we jokingly say that we have no other option. This difficult realization has made me appreciate the relationships I had before the transition. I realize I took simple hugs and handshakes for granted. I now know the life I had before the transition was a blessing.

As a graduating senior going off to graduate school, I have become worried that my attendance in the fall is now jeopardized. I’ve considered deferring my enrollment to the spring 2021 semester, or even the 2021–22 academic year, but I am trying to stay hopeful for the possibility of beginning this fall as planned.

Many of my friends are entering the labor force after graduation. Others are headed for graduate school, but we’re all worried about finding jobs, and quite honestly, being able to pay off our student loans.

Yet, despite these fears and worries I have hope. It has been amazing to see the support that has been extended to people across the world who have been impacted by this pandemic. I am optimistic our global society will continue to show humanity to those who have faced famine, disease and uncertainty far before this pandemic began. Now is a time for an aligned commitment to these causes —one that my graduating peers and I can promote throughout the world as we embark on our new journey.