Dear Graduating Class of 2020

Dear Graduating Class of 2020, I get it. As a final year student, I understand the sadness, the anger and the pain you feel about not having the final term of university which you imagined. The one full of ‘lasts’- last library all-nighter, last trip to your favourite place on campus, last student night out as an undergraduate. All of the things which are part and parcel of being a final year; about to graduate and leave the place you have called home for 3 (or more) years. In a matter of weeks, all of that has been taken away, and worse, has no date of returning.

When I left uni to come back to my ‘family’ home, I was actually leaving another family behind.

University is an overwhelming experience. It has been the best 3 years of my life. I have learnt SO much, not just academically but personally and emotionally. I have met people who I now cannot imagine my life without. People who have genuinely made me a better version of myself. People in your university life very quickly become family, so when I left uni to come back to my ‘family’ home, I was actually leaving another family behind. Every time I think about when we all parted ways just before lockdown, I get unbelievably sad.

From balls, boat parties, conferences, nights out, varsity sports events, society concerts and showcases, my diary was PACKED with exciting social events for April, May, June and July. Not only were these things exciting, they were, again, ‘lasts’. That is what makes this whole situation so much sadder I think; that I know those opportunities and events, in that time of my life, will just never happen. It isn’t anyone’s fault- there is no one to blame or direct frustration towards. So it just sort of hangs around with you, occasionally coming to a head when you look at photos or get a reminder on your phone about an upcoming event which isn’t happening anymore.

With all of this floating around in my head, inevitably, the ‘life guilt’ creeps in. This is a term I have coined for when I feel guilty for moaning and complaining about things in my life, when really, I am so so lucky. I am privileged to have wonderful family and wonderful friends, an incredible education, two cities which I can call home, and good health. With everything going on at the moment, your health and your happiness really are the MOST important things. Therefore, as soon as I feel sad about missing my uni family or the events we have missed out on, I am hit with a pang of guilt that really, I should be thankful that I even had the opportunity for a uni experience, and not angry that it has been cut short.

It is normal to feel sad. It is okay to be angry

With all of that said, it is normal to feel sad. It is okay to be angry. To be honest, whatever you’re feeling in these unprecedented (I know this word has been overused but it just encapsulates the mood) times is okay. Seek help from those able to give it, and support those who might be feeling the same way.

I am sad, but I am also so thankful. I am angry, but I am also excited. I have nearly completed my degree. Nothing can take that away from me. I have nearly finished my highest level of education to date, and along the way I have learnt so much beyond my course.

Rather than seeing the end of uni as, well, an ‘end’, think of it as a start

If you are part of the ‘Graduating Class of 2020’ then I am sorry. I am sorry things aren’t as you planned, and I am sorry that you may be asking ‘what has all this been for then?’ If you are feeling like this, I urge you to look back on your university experience, the people you have met, the experiences you have had, and realise that, actually, although the academic work may be near completion, your journey is far from over.

Rather than seeing the end of uni as, well, an ‘end’, think of it as a start. An international pandemic does not have to affect your personal growth. Be proud of everything you have achieved. I get emotional remembering my fragile, afraid and less confident self, arriving at uni for the first time with absolutely no idea what to expect. I envy her now, and would do anything to redo the entire experience, the good, the bad, and the very very ugly.

Class of 2020, you will be remembered in history as the ones who graduated amongst almost apocalyptic and extraordinary times. The current situation should not take ANYTHING away from the joy, the effort, and the successes of your university experience. Try and remember the good times, let yourself feel sad about the missed times, and look forward to the times ahead. Just think, when you do finally walk across that stage, throw your cap in the air, and are reunited with those who made it possible, it will be a thousand times more special than you could ever have imagined.

Emily Hall

Featured image courtesy of University Leicester via Flikr. No changes made to this image. Image license found here. 

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