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2020 Has Redefined Graduation

The end of my college career is not at all like I thought it would be. I thought I was supposed to be sad about graduation, and I thought I was going to have a job lined up. I’m currently in neither of those states. 

For three and a half years I studied, pushed myself academically, worked an emotionally taxing job as a resident advisor while being a full-time student, grew into a leader through my Her Campus chapter, volunteered and kept a healthy social calendar. And I will celebrate all of that in the basement of my childhood home, probably in sweatpants. 

I’m okay with it. 

2020 has left me no choice but to get over disappointments and failures pretty quickly. It probably started when I was sitting in an airport in Portland, Oregon when I found out that the rest of Spring 2020 semester at Virginia Tech would be done virtually. That didn’t seem like that big a deal as I sat across the country, hoping that my flight home wouldn’t get cancelled too. 

An internship I was supposed to do over the summer was cancelled because of COVID-19. That personal career set backup shortly didn’t sting as much, because then classes with credits I needed to graduate began to get scrapped from the fall course schedule. Internship or not, I couldn’t graduate in December if I was missing credits. 

The online spring semester, fear of cancelled flight, internship and credits really seemed small as people were dying in hospital beds alone to a virus that was out of control, as police officers killed Black people and protestors were then targeted, oh and as Donald Trump tossed around the idea of a coup. 

2020 has rerouted the growth I’ve experienced. I’ve spent a lot of time by myself and learning what makes me happy and what I want out of life. Living through tumultuous times changes the impact you want to make and your values. 

Maybe if this were 2019, in the before times, I’d be sad about graduation. I’ve never been one to call college the best years of my life, that thought depresses me and is incredibly limiting and small-minded. But I understand that if this hadn’t been 2020, I probably would have more to miss. I would have gone downtown with friends, known my classmates and professors better, been to ring dance and football games and had even more memories of Virginia Tech than I do now. “Normal” times would have slowed down the readiness to close this chapter. 

I’m ready to graduate because I know I’ve reached my highest potential at Virginia Tech and that change is good; it’s necessary to thrive. Graduation isn’t about looking to the past anymore, it’s a celebration of the future. What I’ve done at Virginia Tech is important but it’s also not all that I’ll ever do. I’m ready to see where else I’ll go and how I’ll grow.

Jessica Mardian

Virginia Tech '21

Jessica is a senior at Virginia Tech, double majoring in Creative Writing and Multimedia Journalism. 
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