As spring graduation approaches, many members of the Class of 2021 are reflecting on how COVID-19 restrictions and online learning have pervaded the last year of their college experience.
Texas A&M’s spring commencement ceremonies will take place over the course of several days to ensure social distancing. Many seniors also saw modified versions of other campus traditions that graduating Aggies have participated in for decades, such as the last home football game and Elephant Walk.
Public health senior Anais Guitierrez said despite COVID-19, all four of her years at A&M have lived up to her expectations.
“I have gotten to meet so many wonderful people that I will take with me as I move onto the next phase of my life,” Guitierrez said. “But COVID[-19] brought a sense of chaos and uncertainty for our remaining year.”
Despite having to miss out on a number of traditions, Guitierrez said her COVID-19 semesters at A&M taught her how to cherish her past college experiences and to not take normalcy for granted.
“I wish that our last year at A&M could have been normal in terms of attending events and not having to distance from friends,” Guitierrez said. “I wish I could have experienced Kyle Field at full capacity during football games and go to my organization’s formals for the last time.”
Psychology senior Maggie Hoffman said adjusting to online courses was difficult because she was accustomed to attending classes in person for over two years.
“It took a while for me to figure out how to continue to have the college experience while I had to stay home. It was a big change being COVID[-19] cautious,” Hoffman said. “But now that I have a more flexible schedule, I’ve had time to prepare for graduation and my career outside of college.”
Mechanical engineering senior Chiedu Nwaobi said he was satisfied with his college experience at A&M leading up to the pandemic.
“Until COVID[-19] hit last spring, I was involved in many different organizations and had plans to study or spend time with friends all the time. I met so many amazing people,” Nwaobi said. “A&M managed to exceed my expectations for college, even with the rough days.”
COVID-19 devastated the final stretch of college that many students begin dreaming about well before graduation, Nwaobi said.
“As a junior, you start making a mental list of what you want to do with your friends before you graduate because it hits you that you may never see them, even in a year,” Nwaobi said. “I had high, but still realistic, expectations set for my senior year and was excited to finish my junior year smoothly. Unfortunately, things did not go smoothly at all.”
Missing events that seniors traditionally experience was difficult to deal with, and Nwaobi said before COVID-19, he was greatly anticipating experiencing his “lasts” with loved ones in person.
“I wish I would have been able to have my Ring Day in person,” Nwaobi said. “I got my ring when COVID[-19] hit, so it was shipped home to me. Seniors didn’t experience things like last football and basketball games and Ring Day events in the typical fashion with friends and family. Especially at a school that values traditions more than almost anything, it just feels weird.”