Before going to college, I knew that I was graduating a year early, which is why I chose the college I did. I chose a small school despite it being a little more expensive because they took my AP credits and I could leave early with a more personal experience. But little did I know that this personal experience would be the loneliest for the weirdest reason no one saw coming.
I’m sitting here now reflecting on my time at the University of San Francisco feeling a bit robbed. I thought college would be exhilarating and adventurous, but little did I know that that adventure would send me home to face even more difficult challenges. Worrying about how to keep my grades up, my family healthy, and my mental health okay. I found myself in classes disconnected and lonely. I missed walking up the Lone Mountain stairs hoping that I’d catch my breath before class started. Seeing friends out in the city and saying hi, complaining about classes in groups after class got out, waiting for the dumb crosswalk to change so I could get to class on time. These are some of the simple things that I took for granted and are all things I miss.
Luckily for other students who aren’t graduating early, they have the ability to return and have the grand reunion everyone talks about. However, I’m stuck on the path forward with the doors of college closing behind me. I will never get to go back into the library and browse books that I’ll never finish reading. I will never be able to sit up on Lone Mountain in a classroom peering out at the Golden Gate Bridge while the Professor drones on about whatever subject is the lesson of the day. I will never be able to pop into a Professor’s office hours and complain about the workload of other teachers to gain pity and advice. Finally, I will never get to stand in front of the St. Ignatius Church that captured my heart with its beauty celebrating with fellow peers that we graduated.
Now, I will stare at my classmates one more time during finals before logging out of Canvas and shutting my laptop. It’s amazing how many of them I have never met in real life and I will never truly know besides through their Zoom box. Half the time their video wasn’t even on and they never spoke in class, but I wonder if we would’ve been friends if we were in person and the pandemic never happened. People I talked to before the pandemic that I was just getting to know who I never talked to again because of everything. I’ll never truly know what would have happened if the pandemic never occurred, but at least I do have some good memories.
For starters, I was able to join this club and met amazing people that I had never talked to before. I now know their future plans, their stories and their interests from this wonderful club. I was able to meet cool people in class that I don’t think I would’ve approached because I was forced into breakout rooms with them. Professors and students struggled together and joked about the situation to try and cope with the new situation. The community of my department became stronger, even though some of us never met before the online era. I texted my friends more and I connected with friends from my past, while completing a degree that I busted my ass for. I am now relieved to be graduating a year early like planned from the best department and with good grades because I was forced to focus. I was able to try new classes because I didn’t have to worry about balancing two jobs on top of school. I’m relieved it’s done, but I’m also sad that it’s done. I won’t be able to properly say goodbye to the amazing people I met, but I hope they know how much they impacted my life. Even the little hi muttered passing each other on the steps to the private messages in the Zoom chat, I’m relieved to have met the people I did. Happy Graduation to everyone else who was able to do it during the pandemic!