Seniors were asked to share a snapshot of what is going through their minds as they are wrapping up their undergraduate studies.
Reflections on the Good & What Remains
By Aidan Sova, February 2021
As I enter into the final months of my undergraduate career at the University of Michigan, I’ve found that it’s useless to combat my feelings of great nostalgia. Although I’ll be in the area to begin my post-graduate professional career, I’ve already heard from previous alumni that I can expect to view our campus through an entirely different lens after securing my degree. Consequently, although I do not currently live on campus as a result of the pandemic, I try my best to (safely) spend weekends strolling through the Arb, getting take-out from Sava’s, and driving the long way home so that I can catch a glimpse of the Big House.
With that said, although I’ve sincerely cherished my time at the University, and fought to earn admittance into such an elite space, I believe it is important to remove our rose-tinted lenses in our reflections of campus — so that we can best improve upon our experiences for future generations of Wolverines. As a community, we have made tremendous strides in a number of different areas, such as equity, academic governance, and inclusion. However, our work is far from complete. Like with all universities, there are still countless students facing a crushing weight of historical disenfranchisement, actively combatting the consequential plight from economic barriers, or even silently struggling with unimaginable issues that I am not well versed in. As long as our students are subjected to the existing oppressive institutional frameworks, the work of our young student advocates must continue.
Again, the described situation of our campuses marginalized is not something unique to the University of Michigan. But, where my love for our university comes, is in our collective response to adversity — our school has an overwhelming amount of student leaders that tirelessly labor on behalf
of others in an effort to improve the welfare of their community. My experiences with student government and various other advocacy groups have stretched across the entire Big Ten academic conference, and yet, I am consistently most inspired by my fellow Wolverines. With each passing catastrophe in recent years, not only have I come to admire the many University of Michigan students who sacrifice their own precious time to aid those who are in need of it the most, but better yet, I find myself in awe of the young student servants who actively work to institute new frameworks and policies for the next generation to benefit from. This drive, this unrelenting selflessness of our student body is one of the reasons why I chose the university. To me, what makes our university worth loving is the fact that there are many, many people working to make our home better.
Ultimately, our school is a machine fueled by our collective efforts. It cannot function without a passionate student body, diligent administration, caring staff, and gracious faculty. At the very heart of this, comes our students — who are so frequently underpaid, overworked, and ill-represented. Despite this unfairness, their intentions of creating a more equitable tomorrow for our underserved students must never change, as they are the cornerstone of our community’s action efforts.
As I prepare to transition from my time as an undergraduate student, I pray that the work of
our student activists and community leaders never falters, but instead, greatly intensifies. To enable this, it is my sincerest hope that in the coming years, our student activists are compensated fairly so that the cost of entry into the community engagement space is nonexistent. As it stands, many of our low-income students must make a decision to either work a paid position to provide for themselves, or financially suffer if they opt to assist the county. I firmly believe that removing this barrier, while also encouraging the work of our existing student leaders will allow for a higher percentage of our underserved, marginalized students to be fairly represented. With these newfound, added perspectives, I am confident that the incoming generation of Wolverines could enjoy an even better university than what I personally experienced.
With love and admiration, Go Blue!
Four Years Filled with Fulfilling Uncertainty
By Briayna Jordan, November 2020
There are several ways I imagined my final year of undergrad going and it’s fairly safe to say that none of them included surviving a global pandemic, enduring a painfully critical presidential election, and heavily advocating for racial equality in 2020. At the beginning of quarantine I often asked myself if I would’ve done more during my time at U-M had I known that my last year here would be so abnormal. After deep reflection, I’ve come to the realization that my four years here could be described as perfectly imperfect- they were full of learning and growth, with experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.
I believe COVID has taught a lot of people how to navigate uncertainty, but in many ways I like to think that I’ve been learning how to do that since I got here in 2017. When I was a freshman I was 100% committed to the idea of becoming a doctor. I had no plan B if this didn’t work out, so naturally when I came to the conclusion that I hated taking science classes (thank you Chem 180) I was at a standstill. It seemed like everyone around me was moving in the right direction and I wasn’t moving at all. It wasn’t until I actually took the time to think about my other interests that I, with the help of my amazing RC advisor Jennifer Myers, found Comm and Media. Since then, I haven’t looked back.
One thing that I’ve learned about navigating uncertainty, especially at U-M, is that you have to move at your own pace. In college, it is so easy to measure your “success” as an individual and as a student relative to your peers. This is something that I did for years and I found that I wasn’t able to fully find joy in my experiences here until I created my own measures of success. I thought a lot about this when I studied abroad in Spain in the summer of 2019.
I had wanted to travel abroad since high school so naturally I was extremely excited when I finally had the opportunity to. However, I often thought a lot about if it was the right thing to do- I was going into my junior year at the time and many of my peers had at least one internship under their belt while I didn’t have any. I remember being at this odd crossroad between enjoying my time in Madrid while also feeling extremely anxious because I felt behind in my career path. Now I look back at that time and feel comfort knowing that I made a decision that was right for me- the following summer I got an internship at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, relieving the anxiety I once felt about my progression in my intended career.
Another thing I had to recognize about navigating uncertainty is that it is not without difficulty. Being a black student at U-M certainly has been challenging and COVID has brought its own barriers on top of that. If it was not for the strong support system that I’ve built here through organizations I’m a part of, Jennifer, my friends, and my supportive professors through the Comm and Media department and the Residential College, I definitely would’ve struggled significantly more and for that I’m thankful. It’s upsetting to think that it’ll be a while before I sit in a traditional classroom setting again or even that I may not be able to have a traditional graduation in the Big House with all of my friends. In a way, it almost feels selfish to be sad about trivial things like this while millions of people across the world are worried about their health or their safety, but recognizing and accepting the range of emotions I’m feeling during this time has helped me as I navigate through the challenges of my day to day.
Although my senior year is in no way how I envisioned it to be, I’m happy to be at this point in my college career. While the next step may be uncertain, I’m thankful for the experiences I’ve had here at U-M and the fact that I’ll forever be able to “Go Blue!”.
Heartsick, Nervous, and Thankful
By Fallon Gates, May 2020
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.