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What It’s Like to Graduate in the Middle of a Pandemic

Ever wonder what it’s like to finish your degree during a global pandemic? Probably not, but that’s exactly what millions of students are going through right now.

As I look back on my four years at Georgia State University, I can’t help but remember all of the highs and lows of my time there. From starting college and prioritizing grabbing dinner at the dining hall with my friends before closing time to ending my senior year graduating virtually with my name briefly flying across a computer screen, I have learned that nothing really goes exactly the way you plan it to – and that’s okay.

During my final year in college, my plans were structured and finally aligning perfectly with all of the hard work I had done! I started an amazing internship at communications 21, was offered an all-expenses-paid summer fellowship in New York City (where I had planned to move post-grad since I was in high school) and I was on track to complete my senior year with a 4.0 GPA for the term.

In March, we began to hear about the coronavirus disease in the news and all around our communities. As my professional opportunities and monumental events, like my graduation ceremony, began to get cancelled, I started losing hope: what was all of my hard work for if I was not going to be able to see the results of my efforts? As someone who has planned out every detail of these last couple of years, seeing these plans fall apart and suddenly having no direction was the hardest part for me.

During these last couple of months of social distancing, taking time to relax and planning my next steps for post-grad life, I have had a lot of time to think about what this has taught me, and here is what I’ve come up with:

  1. This too shall pass. I am definitely an all-or-nothing type of thinker, so it was easy for me to dig myself into a hole where I believed all of my efforts were pointless after my plans went awry. It was important for me to reaffirm with myself that this pandemic, although life-altering, will all be over some day in the future. We will be able to start our dream job, hug our friends tight and eat baskets of chips and salsa at our favorite Mexican restaurants whenever we please again soon!
  2. It’s okay to be upset. After my graduation and summer fellowship were cancelled, I was devastated – and I had reason to be. I had applied for two years in a row and went through multiple applications and interview rounds to be considered for this prestigious opportunity. I felt guilty for being upset about this considering the current state of the world, but I soon realized that we are all grieving the loss of our normal lives. It is hard to accept, but as time goes by you start to appreciate the things that have remained the same and start to get excited again about the future.
  3. Use your time wisely. I think I (and most people around me) have been waiting for a period of time where there are no obligations and the only thing that I have to focus on is myself. This is the perfect time for self-improvements, whether that’s physical, emotional or professional! I have started working on a portfolio that I can use in the future with sample work and my relevant experiences and I am using this time to finally finish all of the books I have been stockpiling on my shelves this year.
  4. Appreciate the little things. After a couple of months in self-isolation, I have started to be excited over small things that I took for granted before the pandemic hit. Cooking new recipes, taking long walks in this beautiful spring weather and getting to sleep all day long will be things of the past very soon! I am taking advantage of this while I can – and you should too.

When I reminisce on this past year, I know for certain that I have learned something from every single experience and hardship that I have faced – and after a semester-long internship at communications 21, I can confidently say that I am coming out the other side as a more skilled, creative public relations and marketing professional. I am grateful to be safe and healthy and I am excited for what the future holds!

Nardos Yosef – May 22, 2020