“How are you handling everything?”
It’s a question I’ve been getting a lot lately. People are asking me, and I’m asking other college students. But how do I answer that? For me, I’m leaving behind a college campus knowing that I might never come back. I’m a graduating senior that lost the last two months of my year — and what I feel is a lot of uncertainty.
I remember being so excited to start my senior year. Everything was going to be perfect; I had all these great friends to come back to, an exciting new on-campus job and new responsibilities managing a student media organization. I remember sitting in my room meticulously planning out my schedule — all the way down to the restaurant my family would go to after my graduation ceremony. I didn’t think anything was going to come between me and my last year in school.
When the email went out about classes being moved online, its impact was immediately felt throughout campus. There was so much uncertainty in those words, so much confusion and frustration. Nobody knew what to do, and we had nowhere to run. I think I’ll always remember that feeling, that immediate loss. When I read those words from my chancellor, I couldn’t believe that my perfect senior year had already ended. My mom was quick to remind me that I still had classes to finish and I was still graduating in some way. But I still felt slighted, like the universe was depriving me of those last moments with friends, going to parties, dating, and participating in final events. My years at school have been some of my best to date, and it’s difficult to accept that this chapter of my life is already over.
In the days following something like this, you might want to scream, cry or ignore what’s happening all around you. It’s a lot to process when you suddenly have to move out of your apartment and leave the town you’ve called home all these years. I talked to so many people to try to make sense of it all. To my surprise, many had already made peace with it. I had to learn how to accept what was happening, and why I should also be able to make peace with our situation.
Even though I’m going to be missing out on a lot in the last moments of college life, there’s more that I should be thankful for. Though life has dealt a rough hand to seniors this semester, I’ve had an amazing experience in college that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
When I first stepped foot on my beloved campus, I couldn’t believe it was finally my time. I had spent most of high school awaiting college, and I was so nervous and excited to get started. I wanted to give myself every opportunity to grow in the time I had. I tried everything and pushed myself outside of my comfort zone. If there’s any time to try something, it’s in college, right? A year of late nights, parties, and a few exams later, I was absolutely in love with college. My freshman year gave me so many opportunities to join interesting student organizations, play exciting sports and take an active part in my community. I couldn’t imagine how it could get any better than it already was. To my surprise – it did! Each year I spent in school was better than the last. As soon as one school year ended, I was anxiously waiting for the next to start, counting down the days before I could take in what was in store ahead. Every year, the new friends, projects and opportunities never failed to disappoint.
I was also fortunate enough to rub shoulders with some of the world’s most powerful voices: judges, senators, my governor, and even high-ranking members of the Kenyan government! College taught me life skills outside of the classroom that I’ll forever cherish. Once somebody that only spoke when spoken to, I learned how to embrace confidence and leadership. I also learned how to work with other people better. Group projects were such a commonplace at my school, and they became less daunting with each new assignment.
During my last two years in school, I learned how an almost-adult keeps themself alive without real adult supervision. Living off-campus was an interesting challenge that taught me just how terrible of a cook I am, and how to budget for meal kits and delivery charges. The last handful of years have been some of the best in my life, filled with experiences I’ll never forget. I made lifelong friends, learned invaluable skills and experienced freedom like I never imagined. Anything can happen on a college campus, and I think that’s maybe what I’ll miss the most.
As you navigate your emotions and people ask you about your feelings, don’t feel like it’s wrong to be grieving the loss of your last semester.
You’re not too dramatic to be upset. You’re not disrespectful if you’re devastated. If you have strong feelings about having to leave college early, that just means that you’ve had a fulfilling college experience. Even though senior year isn’t ending the way it was imagined, we have a lot to reminisce. And remember — it’s not over yet.