This reflection was written by, and posted on the behalf of, Alyssa Lennon.
My final semester at Towson left me without much of the closure that I wanted to gain during my final year of undergraduate studies. When we received the email on Tuesday, March 10th that classes were cancelled through spring break, I went back to my on-campus apartment after class, packed an overnight bag with about a week’s worth of clothes, and drove home within hours. Since my internship was closer to my home than Towson, I wanted to take advantage of cutting my commute in half and not having to bring my overnight bag to work the next day as well. At this time, my assumption was that I would get an extended spring break with maybe a week or so of online classes, then return to campus relatively soon to finish my semester in person. As my roommates shared my expectations, there was no formal good-bye between us, only a text saying we were leaving and that we would see each other soon.
A similar scenario occurred with my internship. On Friday, March 13th, I completed a full workday as usual and discussed with my coworkers what was occurring on the college campuses. As with my roommates, I was not able to say good-bye to, receive feedback from, or reflect on my internship with my supervisors and colleagues, as the company did not close until I was on break. While it was heartbreaking that I was not able to complete the internship that I enjoyed, it was even more upsetting that all the people that I had come to know at the company were now furloughed and reliant on unemployment benefits for an undetermined amount of time. Although I have texted with some of them occasionally, it is sad to know that many of my coworkers are now suffering the same financial straits as so many other Americans. As disappointed as I am, I know that this has been an even more upsetting experience for the entire staff [of the publisher where I was an intern].
While the situation is of course distressing, frustrating, and demotivating, I feel that it has helped to better me as a person in some ways as well. Aside from my work shifts and video lectures, I am completely in charge of when I complete my coursework, both “in class” and for homework. When online classes initially resumed, I struggled with procrastination, as no work felt pressing anymore. The deadlines feel less rigid when you feel so separated from the course. My procrastination has improved over the last few weeks once I established a better routine for myself, but it is hard to feel motivated to complete work, because it feels as if I have graduated already. Despite the challenges, this experience has taught me how I work independent of instruction and what I can do to become a better worker in a position without significant oversight.
Outside of academia, this pandemic has also given me more time with my family. As my parents can both work from home and my sister is a college student as well, I have been with my family every day. While this has been difficult at times simply because we are around each other constantly, we have been able to support one another through this stressful experience and spend more quality time together than we are typically able to. Even simple tasks like going for a walk or cooking with my parents and sister can be much-needed distractions and alleviate the anxiety of the pandemic. I am lucky to have an excellent support system at home to guide me through this crisis and offer relief when needed.
However, it is difficult not to linger on the things that I should be experiencing. I miss spending time with my roommates in my apartment and meeting up with my other friends on the weekends. I miss attending class with my peers and professors, some of which I have had for several semesters. I miss working at the Writing Center and chatting with the other tutors while on break. I even miss commuting to Lanham, even if it meant sitting in traffic for an hour and a half, as I truly loved my time working at [the publishing house]. In all honesty, I am not bothered that my commencement has been postponed or cancelled. What saddens me most is that the daily things that I enjoyed about living in Towson and being an undergraduate student are over before I was ready for them to be. I did not get to say good-bye to my professors or friends, walk around campus one last time, or complete my internship.
My final moveout day was an example of one of these experiences that should have been fulfilling and meaningful but was rather emotional and stressful. As it was in mid- to late-March, after the essential business shutdown but before the stay-at-home order, we wore gloves but not any masks yet. We stripped the apartment of my belongings and then scrubbed every inch of what we had touched, so as not to risk infecting my other roommates should we have contracted the virus. It was a bizarre experience as, even when I had been completely moved out, my time at home still felt temporary like a break. I did not feel the relief of moving out as I had in past semesters, knowing I had completed my finals and looking forward to summer jobs and vacations. Rather than a sign of achievement, the empty room was a reminder of all that I would miss out on during the remainder of the semester.
Most of all, this experience has taught me how fleeting and unpredictable life is. In January, when I first became aware of the Coronavirus, it felt, like most other epidemics of my lifetime, like something that happened elsewhere. I of course had empathy for those who were affected, but it felt like so distant of an issue to my life. The interconnectedness of my life to the entire world truly sunk in mid-March when the first case of Coronavirus was confirmed in my small hometown in a relatively rural area of southern Maryland. In a matter of weeks, the Coronavirus went from a crisis overseas to something that deeply impacted my life. As my life as a college students transformed practically overnight (I did not wake up on March 10th knowing that that would be my last day as a student on Towson’s campus), I have learned to treasure my time and experiences, even the mundane, more intimately, as I never know when these experiences will be the last.