A Graduating Senior’s Perspective on COVID-19
By Maddie Boulanger
It is safe to say that I did not expect my last semester of college to end this way. As I sit at the desk in my childhood bedroom in Appleton, Wis., I can’t tell if it feels like life has come full-circle or to a full-stop. It is, perhaps, both.
There have been massive changes to every level of society in the last few weeks. Our daily lives and routine are unrecognizable from only a few weeks ago.
There are some things from which I don’t mind having a break. The hustle and bustle of speed-walking from work to class and then back to work is not something I miss (yet). The commute in the morning is from my bed to my desk. The dress code has become very relaxed. I don’t miss having to spend $4 on a to-go coffee in between class. Now I have free coffee, unlimited refills. My barista, aka Dad, always has a fresh pot brewing when I make my way into the kitchen, also known as the break room.
But even so, I miss my campus community. I was looking forward to the weather finally warming up, to the Terrace opening (!!), and to enjoying my last few weeks in Madison with my friends. In looking at the Union’s online calendar, I have a renewed appreciation for all of the great programming that we offer.
My disappointment about graduation being canceled cannot be emphasized enough. I come from a long line of Badgers, each who begrudgingly donned their cap and gown to sit at Camp Randall. I was the only one who actually wanted to attend their graduation ceremony.
My saving grace is a busy schedule. As a full-time student, I just wouldn’t feel like myself if I weren’t exhausted and overwhelmed all the time. Luckily, I still have a full credit-load and have been working my three, yes three, campus jobs remotely. Maintaining my normal schedule and routine as much as possible has helped me stay productive during this transition.
I work for a few hours every morning before moving into “school” mode. I attend asynchronous lectures and participate in discussions via an online chat forum. For two of my classes, we log-in to Blackboard at the time of our usual class. With Blackboard, professors can give lectures and split the class into discussion groups for activities. Students can even “raise their hand” to ask a question. If you close your eyes a little and pretend like you aren’t in your pajamas, it almost feels like real classroom.
All joking aside, those classes that meet in real-time have come to mean the world to me. I so greatly appreciate that my professors are making the effort to connect with us and provide some semblance of normalcy. I’m proud of the entire UW-Madison community and the way that students and staff are supporting each other right now. In some ways, I feel more connected to my peers than ever before.
The University has made many difficult decisions in the last few weeks, but I’m grateful that they have made the decisions that they did. It was the correct choice to move classes online and to cancel large community events. The pass-fail option, which was announced this week, will help remove some of the pressure on students during an already tumultuous time.
There is still uncertainty about the future. Most of the post-graduate jobs and internships for which I’ve applied notified me that they are suspending their hiring processes for the foreseeable future or are canceling the position indefinitely. I’m sure everyone has wondered at some point in the last two weeks, “What is my life going to look like after this is over?”
I am trying to stay positive. I still have an education and a source of income thanks to my job at the Wisconsin Union and the ability to work remotely. The events that I looked forward to will still happen, just not when originally scheduled. Our achievements will still be recognized. We will see our friends and loved ones again. The Terrace will open at some point. These things will come sooner if we stay inside and stay healthy. Wisconsin has been doing a great job so far with social distancing, so keep up the great work.
If there’s one thing that I know, it is that the UW-Madison and Wisconsin Union community is strong and stronger together. Someday, when I’m frustrated that I can’t find a sunburst chair in which to watch the sunset, I’ll remember how lucky I am to be outside at all. I hope to see you all at the Terrace, real soon.