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What COVID-19 Stole From the Class of 2020

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Photo Courtesy of Andre Hunter Via Unsplash. 

The countdown began in late February—100 days until graduation. We cherished our Villanova University “lasts.” There was the final men’s basketball game at the Wells Fargo Center and the witty Instagram comments about formal senior functions. We handed off our positions on various executive boards to juniors, happily declaring our “washed-up” status. We registered for graduation, placing orders for caps and gowns. We pondered the future and planned for spring break.

In the first days of March, we looked on as other schools extended their spring breaks, then canceled their semesters. We tried to ignore speculation. Every class came with reminders to wash our hands and rumors about when the campus would shut down. A March 11 announcement offered some hope: Students could remain on campus, but there would be a temporary shift to virtual classes. Bars and restaurants were still open. Pandemic parties were planned. We didn’t have a clue.

Two days later, many of us were packing our bags and heading home amid the disorienting fog of a global pandemic. Many students left their dorm rooms largely intact, packing as if they were leaving for only a few weeks. On social media, the refrain, “This isn’t goodbye, it’s just a see you soon” floated. We were in denial.

On March 23, our graduation countdown ended abruptly and indefinitely. Classes would continue virtually for the rest of the semester, and commencement was up in the air. As the sadness kicked in, I remained sequestered in off-campus housing with my roommates. Other friends returned to their families. Caps and gowns were mailed, our degrees conferred via Zoom.

In the process, we’ve joined the millions of other college seniors making the plunge into the real world without much fanfare. We face an uncertain job market, a likely global recession and a world scarred by COVID-19. In my four years at Villanova, I experienced the school’s 175th anniversary, a presidential election and an impeachment, one NFL Super Bowl win and two NCAA championships for our home teams, a campus transformation, and, of course, a global pandemic.

Ultimately, no matter what we face, we’ll still be as the Class of 2020. I wouldn’t trade my 3.75 years on campus for anything.

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