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A Senior’s Reflection on COVID-19

Editor’s note: All opinions pieces published in the Clerk represent only the views and ideas of the author. 

I know that everyone’s trials in relation to these current events are varied and distress and disappointment are resonating with all of us in different capacities. For myself and the three-hundred-plus others in the class of 2020, this disruption strikes in a particular way. I do not wish to romanticize my experiences at Haverford College or the experience of attending college at all. For many of my friends and classmates, college has been rife with emotional, financial, and physical distress, including mental health crises, sexual assaults, and everything between. However, there is a specific sense of loss that needs to be acknowledged in losing our final weeks at this institution.

For me, this last week has been full of stress and uncertainty. I dealt with issues regarding my housing stability and the possibility of losing health insurance should I be forced to return to my parents’ house in Minnesota. Luckily, Haverford has recognized the serious nature of that instability and made an accommodation for me to stay in my apartment. As my peers Fede and Soha have already written, the campus feels hollow and empty on the few occasions I have ventured outside. I do not know who else is here, but I know we are all enduring this solitude in a myriad of ways. I, for example, went for a run on Wednesday (something I have never voluntarily done before in my life). I have cleared a couple shows from my Netflix watchlist, baked a cake, and given some much-needed attention to my Stardew Valley farm. I have not looked at my thesis.

As an English major, my thesis was initially supposed to be due at the beginning of April in order to have the rest of the year to prepare for my oral exam, a culmination of everything I have studied in the English department during the last four years. As of yesterday, that deadline has shifted, and our oral exam expectations reduced. Although I am grateful for this given the circumstances, and I know asking myself or any of my classmates to perform to our regular best is an absurd request, I can’t help but reflect on what I am losing. With my final semester cut short, it is like I’m going to graduate without having completed the milestones expected of past and future Haverford English majors. My thesis will be done, but I won’t have the memory of turning in a printed and bound copy in Woodside, something I have looked forward to since I accompanied my friend for a thesis photoshoot in 2018. I won’t be able to present my work on the public panel I attended first and sophomore years. Even the oral exam, as daunting as it is, feels like something I am missing. I won’t have my last Pinwheel Day, or my last Haverfest, nor will I be able to ring the bell in Founder’s Hall or walk down the stage at Commencement.

Commencement is perhaps the greatest disappointment faced by the class of 2020, not just at Haverford, but colleges all over the country. Although it is in truth a mere formality, it was supposed to be the concrete marker of my time here ending. It is the culmination of the last four years of my life. My parents have not set foot on Haverford’s campus or even anywhere on the East Coast since they dropped me off on move-in day in 2016. My brothers and my twin sister have never seen this campus or even been to this part of the country. This ceremony was not just for me, but for them. I, like many of my classmates, would have been the first in my family to walk across a graduation stage with a four-year degree. Although I will still have the degree, the celebration is going to be very different from how I dreamed.

The reality of what we are facing with this crisis as individuals and as a society cannot be understated. I am well aware that my senior semester and graduation are the least of my concerns at this moment. Both of my parents are facing job insecurity—my mother already laid off from her second job—and I am concerned for the health of many immunocompromised people close to me, as well as the safety of my friends who are unable to return hom[e, including those who risk losing their visas. Still, these cancellations represent an entire chapter of my life closing before I was ready, and before it was complete. The fact that these experiences are shared among an entire class of college and high school graduates makes it a bit easier to cope. But that does not replace what is missing and what will always be missing for us.

Still, Haverford is my home. It has been my home for the last four years. The friends I have made here have been my family and that will not change even if our goodbyes were not what we hoped they would be.

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