Reflecting on Graduating Early Mid-Pandemic

As I registered for sophomore classes at the end of my freshman year at Sacred Heart University, I noticed my transcript said, “expected completion date: May 2020.” 

My heart skipped a beat. A chance to get out of here and start my life early? Yes, please. 

I talked to my advisor as soon as I could and worked out that since I wanted to go abroad, I wouldn’t graduate a whole year early, but a semester early was well within reach. 

All I wanted for so long was to be fully independent, and the sooner the better. Prior to that moment, I hadn’t been sure I would return to SHU, but if it was giving me a chance to graduate early, maybe I would stick it out. 

But the idea of getting out into the world early didn’t take away my fear that I would still be unhappy during my sophomore year. 

If anyone can think of a less cringey way to say I never thought I would love SHU as much as I do now, let me know. 

The place I have in my heart for this university is aching more often lately as I near the date I leave campus forever, a semester before my classmates, in the middle of a pandemic. 

I constantly flip between regret and relief that I made the decision to fast-track my college career. Currently, as I sit in my dorm room for the sixth day in a row during a two-week building-wide quarantine, I’m somewhere in between those two feelings. 

Since the beginning of this semester, people have been asking me if I’m sad about leaving early. The answer is yes and no. 

Everyone mourned for the class of 2020, but the class of 2021 arguably has it worse. We missed out on the end of our junior year and the chance to say goodbye to all our graduating friends. We have a shortened fall 2020 semester, no Saturdays at campus field, no last President’s Gala, no final “Halloweekend,” no senior pub nights or unveiling of the graduation countdown in Red’s. 

As an RSA this semester, I haven’t been able to visit my fellow RSA friends in different buildings–the people who have become my main support system–due to restrictions put in place to control COVID-19. Of course, the new rules are necessary and understandable, but I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to sleepovers on dorm floors and late-night Kraft mac and cheese. 

And now, the last few weeks of this semester are online. While we haven’t been officially sent home, the campus is a ghost town. With doubts creeping in about whether the spring 2021 semester will be on campus, I’m glad I’ll already have a degree by then. 

In the midst of the pandemic, all of the things I’m missing out on feel like the problems of the person I was in March. I grieved the college experience for weeks when we were sent home for the first time due to this pandemic. 

It almost seems silly that senior traditions were the biggest thing on my mind at one point. Eight months into this new normal, I’m always worried that I or someone I love will get sick, and applying to full-time jobs is increasingly daunting as coronavirus cases are rising again. 

Part of me is glad that no one told me the end of my college career would look like this, because I probably would have dropped out a long time ago. But, at the same time, this unique experience has given me proof that the universe puts you exactly where you are supposed to be and tells you when you need to move on, so I know it’s time to say goodbye to my second home. 

I’m sure I’ll be a mess the day I leave, but in a way, I’ve been slowly saying goodbye to SHU for months. I can’t say whether I’ve made the right decision. I can’t say if I’m ready. But are you ever?

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