Senior Year: The Pandemic Edition

NYU seniors reflect on their last year of college during a pandemic.

NYU seniors face their graduating year in the midst of a pandemic. Every senior has a different outlook on what they envision the fall 2020 semester to look like. (Staff Illustration by Chelsea Li)

To some, senior year is the much-awaited transition from a lifetime of structured schooling to real life adulthood. To others it’s a dreaded time of uncertainty and pressure. To me, it’s almost like a highlight reel of nostalgia and feels with High School Musical’s classic “We’re All In This Together” (Graduation Mix, of course) playing on repeat in the background. However, along with almost everything else in this world, “Miss Rona” has transformed senior year into something unrecognizable in these unprecedented times.

Gone are Senior Week and those special senior sweatshirts; foreign is the feeling of superiority watching underclassmen struggle to jaywalk around campus — better yet, the idea of being on campus at all. All that’s left is an astronomically expensive final year at Zoom University.

Asma Begum, a senior in Gallatin, shares my emotional investment and disappointment in this version of senior year — she’s decisively less dramatic, though.

“I’ve been looking forward to senior year ever since my freshman year because of all the events that happen at NYU and being able to celebrate the ‘last first day’ with my friends,” Begum said. “Having been a commuter student since freshman year, I really enjoyed being on campus whenever I could. But with COVID it’s kind of difficult to do that.” 

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Like many other students, Begum made the difficult decision to stay remote for the fall semester due to health and safety concerns, but is hopeful for the spring and the possibility of graduating at Yankee Stadium like we’ve all always dreamed.

Ananya Raghuram, a CAS senior who has chosen to tackle a 12-hour time difference as she remotely attends school from Singapore, is much more optimistic about “Senior Year: The Pandemic Edition.”

“I overall feel happier mentally and physically at home, and this gives me more time to think about grad school,” Raghuram said, excited for the opportunity to get more clarity about her future plans.

She remains unfazed by the idea of not physically being present at school, admitting that, “Uncertainty is everywhere and I’m not sure we all know how to navigate in person experiences so no, I don’t feel fazed.”

Tandon senior Ali DeCesare is also looking forward to the future.

“Honestly, senior year for me is about getting done what I have to get done and getting out,” DeCesare said of her plans to graduate early this December and start work immediately.

Though she doesn’t seem fazed by her virtual senior year, she commented on how these large scale changes are definitely an adjustment and not for everyone.

“I’ve already accepted that the first real career job I have is going to be virtual, and while I’m mostly fine with that, it’s just a very strange time to live in and be emerging out of academia into the ‘real world,’” DeCesare said. “I’m glad that the virtual spaces work well for me as a learning environment, but I know a lot of people are finding it really hard to get to classes and stay focused, and when only being offered virtual classes, it just might not work for some people.”

There are many pros and cons to this senior year, and CAS senior Kashish Jain really had to weigh them as he decided to delay his early graduation last spring and return to NYU this fall. Having always planned to graduate at the end of his third year, the abrupt COVID-end of his college career just didn’t sit right with him.

“Coming back seemed like a way to practically extend six more months of my schooling life,” Jain said. “Cause growing up, till this point, it’s all one form or another of schooling, so it just feels more comfortable extending those six months rather than being in the position where you’re unemployed, looking for jobs, not in school, just out of place in everything, especially as an international student and especially right now.”

Although every senior holds a different outlook on the semester, there is no doubt that there is optimism in the air and that each senior will make the most of their final year at NYU, especially if we all work together to follow the health guidelines enforced.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 e-print edition. Email Ria Mittal at [email protected]

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