When I started college, my world was filled with hope and excitement. Essentially, I was entering my first four years at Meredith College or my so-called “Wonderland” and I truly saw it as a Wonderland. I was meeting people all around, taking interesting classes, participating in several on-campus activities, exploring my college town of Raleigh, North Carolina, and savoring my first moments of freedom. I had four exciting years of college ahead of me and I was enjoying every single moment that I could. Indeed, I am glad I since did! Fast forward to March 2020 and my college experience turned upside down – the COVID-19 pandemic ensued and transformed our world as we knew it into something that none of us knew what to expect. It was the end of my Junior year of college and my Senior year was looking pretty uncertain and felt that way the entire time. Little did I know, my college career would be changed and I would be graduating within COVID-19 days.

March 2020 was a tough month for all of us. Social distancing was the name of the game and encouraged for all of us. Masks started to become the new normal come April 2020 and into May 2020. Maintaining a 6 foot distance from those not within our households was necessary. All of these precautions were put in place to keep us all safe. But, as we all know, COVID-19 precautions that we took to heart are the antithesis of the typical college experience that all of us knew of. There were no more parties, social gatherings, events, study sessions, and much more. Each and everything that I knew of and loved about my college experience was simply robbed of me. I watched my Class of 2020 classmates talk about their sadness and grief of their college experience essentially ending in the blink of an eye. It was taken away from them never to be seen again. During those uncertain and uncomfortable times, I worried for the rest of my college experience and others’s too.

Come August 2020, I ended up moving back into my college apartment. I lived alone since my roommate did not come back – something I was dreading but actually to my surprise learned to LOVE. In August 2020, masks roamed the campus making it hard to detect who our classmates we hadn’t seen for 6 months really were. Guest policies were strict. Classrooms were set apart, in order to maintain the 6 foot social distancing protocols. My hugger persona learned to embrace the air hug when I saw those friends and classmates and community members whom I love again for the very first time in a long while. All of our lives were changed at that point. Everything was uncertain. We did know that our college experience was going to look remarkably different this coming year. However, we had each other through it all.

The entire year was very different. Everything was done at a distance. I became a club President for my college’s Canaday Math and Computer Science Club and was hopeful to do in-person events, but since had to operate all club functions on a virtual front. The same virtual front went for my fundraisers for my Class of 2021, since I was the Fundraising Chair. I only had one class each semester that was held in-person along with a class that I assisted every Friday afternoon in the Fall semester. It was weird. All events were virtually held or cancelled. Needless to say it was not the same. My classmates and I all missed out that year, but so many people are continuing to miss out on what they thought their college experience would look like. But, things are changing even with COVID-19. They are changing and it is good. In fact, that change occurred during my Senior year of college as well.

I attended multiple in-person events upon graduating from Meredith College. One of those events I even got to chair with planning, which was super bittersweet! I even received an in-person graduation along with the Class of 2020 who had theirs two weeks prior, which I helped Marshall at. Although I had to miss out on a lot, having a string of in-person events was like wrapping the bow on a box at Christmas. In fact, my event advisor and my Tri-chairs and I saw a lot of benefits to hosting COVID-19 friendly events, too, that we hoped would remain true for years to come. It was indeed the best way to end my college experience.

From March 2020-May 2021, the process of moving on from my Meredith College days began. I started to focus more on this platform and my blog here and getting to know y’all – my readers! My good friend from the Class of 2020 was telling me months after graduating during the pandemic that she was already beyond her college years and got the closure she needed. I was beginning to feel similarly, despite my college graduation on-campus being the icing on top of the cake that was my college experience!

You could say that graduating COVID-19 will define me and my whole generation. Although graduating during COVID-19 can be seen to some as a sorrow fest – it is not for me and many others. I grew stronger from these experiences, I learned to love myself, I began putting ME first, I learned what I wanted, and I went for it. I became employed, started and expanded my blog platform, and I made the move up to the nation’s Capital. If I were to not have graduated during COVID-19, who knows what would’ve happened?

XOXO – Katie <3

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