Staying in and quarantining in my Ann Arbor apartment, I can’t imagine a stranger way to end my time as a Michigan student. I don’t want college to end, and I don’t want it to end like this: during a stay-at-home order. None of us signed up to go through a historic moment in time, but here we all are. It has been an exhausting, emotional rollercoaster — each day bringing new information, feelings and thoughts. It feels like a really bad dream, or a glitch in the matrix.
I’ve had a lot of time these days to reflect, and I couldn’t help but remember my freshman year. I was a little bit awkward and a lot a bit nervous, and I really had no idea what I wanted to do. I was taking biology, film, psychology, environmental science. Yes, I was one of those “pre-med” students. I was so committed, in fact, that in the Biology 173 lab I participated in the infamous anal swab bacteria collection! It was an unforgettable freshman moment. Anyways, I knew that biology wasn’t the path for me. I looked and asked and researched for studies suited to me. I distinctly remember my first Communication and Media (then Communication Studies) advisor meeting with Cheryl Erdmann, who by the end of that meeting convinced me to take COMM 101.
Suddenly, I found myself in the best major I could possibly find. I did a shadowship program with a Chief Marketing Officer in Rhode Island, I’ve gone on local company field trips, I’ve attended faculty meetings, I’ve aided department research, I’ve spoken at COMM events, I was a leader in the club Michigan Communication and Media Professionals (formally Michigan Association of Communication Studies), and I’ve worked as a Marketing and Media assistant for the department. When I say I love this major, I really do. It has given me opportunities and skills I will never forget, beyond what I expected to gain from college. I have loved every class, and I’m grateful for the wide range of classes I’ve been able to take. I am going to miss it so much. What I think about now, as classes are finishing up, is that with each assignment I turn in I am one step closer to being done with classes, maybe forever. I know it’s not the end of learning, but part of me feels like it is.
When we were first told that graduation was canceled, I honestly didn’t believe it. I thought maybe it will get better, and we will still be able to do something in-person. Even as weeks went on, it still just didn’t sink in. I had senior friends crying to me about losing this experience. But especially during those early weeks, that’s not what was on my mind.
I was scared when we first moved to online classes. The media really sucked me in, and I was checking the counted cases and deaths nearly every day. A week after St. Patrick’s Day, I became very ill. It came out of nowhere and lasted for 5 days — 102° fevers, headaches, chest pain, fatigue. I was so scared for the test results, scared to even go to the University Health Service. Thankfully, I was negative for COVID-19. But the fear I had while I was sick stayed with me long after I recovered. I am still worried when I run out of groceries and have to go shopping. I am still worried about my older parents, my family, my friends.
The fear of contracting COVID-19 has now dissipated for me somewhat. My new worry, like most unemployed seniors, is my financial security in the future as I look to find a job. As you probably know, the market is not so great right now, and employers aren’t exactly racing to hire me. Of course, this is so much bigger than a “me” problem; unemployment is higher than 20%. I’m wondering what will happen to our nation. How long will it take to recover from this economic disaster? What is this next year going to look like? I try to look at the bright side, and hope that this virus will be a learning opportunity for policy revision.
With graduation a few days away, I finally understand the significance of what I am losing. I will not be able to sit in the Big House. My parents and family will not come to celebrate with me; I will not even see them. I do not get a last hurrah with my friends; for those who have left to go home, I may never see them again. There’s nothing to sugarcoat here. This sucks, and I am sad. The end of senior year is a special time. I miss that time I would have had with my friends. I miss the last few weeks I would have had on campus.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful, or ignorant of the millions of people being affected by COVID-19. There is a lot happening in the world and in this country that is more devastating than losing graduation. But a lot of the people are probably feeling some of the things that I am feeling, graduating or not. It is important to recognize these feelings so we can support each other and care for one another.
I am so thankful for my experience here. It is hard to say goodbye. But coming to the University of Michigan and majoring in Communication and Media has been the best decision and best four years of my life. I am honored to soon be an alumni, and I’ll forever bleed maize and blue.