Graduating Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

Sunrise over Western's Campus

Written by: Lauren Lee, 4th year English Undergraduate

On Thursday, March 12th at 7pm, I sat in what would be my last university lecture without knowing it.

At this time, I knew the COVID-19 pandemic was causing panic in the community. Stricter sanitation rules were enforced — I myself even started carrying Lysol wipes with me everywhere — people were stocking up on home goods, and every news headline had something to do with the virus. However, it didn't even cross my mind that classes would be canceled because of this. Perhaps I was ignorant or naive, but when the message came out that the remainder of the year’s classes would be moved online I was met with mixed feelings.

The message came out at 8pm, just before the class was about to write a midterm. The entire class looked around at each other, some with happy expressions on their face and others with looks of shock and concern. I put my pen to my exam booklet and wrote the test to the best of my ability, thinking in the back of my mind: “This could be the last test you ever write.”

I handed in my test and started walking to the parking lot to head home — a walk that normally feels like thirty seconds now felt like hours as my thoughts were full of circulating emotions. I got in my car and sat for a few minutes before starting it. I had just attended my last university lecture and wrote my last ever midterm. I was excited about never having to write a test again, since as an English student, exams and tests really are not my strong suit. That being said, I was filled with an odd feeling of sadness as I realized that, as someone who isn’t planning to pursue grad school yet, I may never be in a classroom learning environment again.

After a good night’s sleep and some self reflection, I realized that I would have felt these feelings at some point. Whether I felt them now because my in-class university career was cut a little short, or because my university career finished as planned and I wrote more tests and attended more lectures. A chapter of my life is coming to a close; a chapter that has lasted four years and has been full of so many memories and experiences.

Western has been an amazing home for the last four years. Though when I finish I won’t be going far, since I am a Londoner, I’ll still miss standing in long lines for bagels and coffee, exploring study spots, meeting new people, and learning from eccentric professors. Though my undergrad career may not have ended as planned, I’ll always cherish the four years I spent here.

At times like these, when everything feels uncertain, confusing, and overwhelming, we need to join together. As difficult as this time may be, we need to try our best to remain kind. And, even more difficult, we need to remain hopeful. Things may not be going as planned — I might not be walking across the stage in Alumni Hall come June, and I may not be able to put forth my best work through online classes — but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still reasons to celebrate and be hopeful. I can celebrate being able to spend four years learning what I love; I can celebrate the lifelong connections I made during my time here; I can celebrate the fact that I survived taking a science course even though it’s not at all where my strengths lie; I can celebrate that over the last four years, I have grown as a person academically, mentally, and emotionally.

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