October 1, 2020
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Four years cut short: seniors cope with sudden end to college careers

By Camille Furst
Managing Editor

As senior Alyssa Spagnuolo cleaned out her bedroom at home, the fact that she would never be back at the College as an undergraduate began to sink in. After coming across an old Funival bracelet and the formal dress she never had the chance to wear, she was reminded of some of the more exciting moments in her college career. But the ordinary days are what she will miss most. 

“I’m picturing a beautiful, nice day…taking a walk around the loop, exchanging stories with friends about things that happened,” Spagnuolo said. “It’s a sad thing to know that it’s over. You’re not prepared for it to be over like that.”

Students return to an empty campus to collect their belongings. (Jhon Beltran / Staff Photographer)

On March 20, President Kathryn foster announced in a campus-wide email that campus would stay closed for the rest of the semester and commencement would be postponed in an effort to contain COVID-19. As this news surfaced, seniors were forced to suddenly say goodbye to the place many called home. 

For Spagnuolo, an elementary education and iSTEM dual major, the daily notifications and emails have made it difficult to cope with the thought of never returning to campus.

“Nothing makes sense right now,” she said. “Some of my classmates I may never see again.”

Spagnuolo did not expect the day before spring break to be her last day of college. While many suspected an eventual announcement of campus closure from Foster, Spagnuolo held onto hope. 

“I would have hugged everybody a little bit tighter. I would have said ‘goodbye’ and ‘I’ll miss you’ more often,” she said. “Just because I totally wouldn’t have thought that this would be the last time I saw people.”

Members of the senior class also find themselves in a place of uncertainty, as Foster and the Commencement Committee are looking into various options for their graduation ceremony. Foster also announced on March 20 that commencement will take place in two phases: the first being a “remote yet intimate” event on May 21. The second phase, however, is not set in stone.

“This is not the ceremony they wanted, we know,” Foster said in a phone interview with The Signal on March 20. “We are trying to do the best we can to make it something that’s really memorable and special for them as well. Nobody is talking about groups of 10,000 anymore. Until we hear more guidance from health professionals, we simply can’t commit to it.”

When Kyler Steele, a senior computer science major, received the campus closure announcement, he immediately reflected on what ended up being the last few nights of his college experience — some of which were spent studying for midterm exams and others spent with friends. While there was no official announcement before spring break, suspicion of campus closure for the rest of the semester grew among students.

“In the last nights we would kind of sit together and think, ‘Woah, this might be it,’” Steele said. 

Mike Danyluk, a senior mechanical engineering major, has been working on his senior project for the past nine months. According to Danyluk, now that the campus is closed for the rest of the semester, his work is “effectively down the drain.”

“When you put all that work, all that time into something, it becomes integral into your life,” Danyluk said. “And they just ripped that away from us.”

When Claudia Holonics, a senior special education and English dual major, invited her friends to her apartment in Campus Town before spring break, she had no idea it would be one of her last memories of college. 

“I had a bunch of our friends over, but it wasn’t like we were saying goodbye,” Holonics said. 

Although the circumstances are undoubtedly disappointing, Spagnuolo has been determined to stay positive, finding comfort in the fact that the pandemic has given her graduating class a distinct opportunity for growth. 

“Yeah, this is hard. This is something that nobody expected and nobody wanted,” she said. “But at the same time, I think it made us stronger … and we’re a part of history.” 

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