As a college graduate in the class of 2020, I often get a lot of sympathy. “It must have been so hard to leave early your last year,” or “I’m so sorry you didn’t get to have a graduation.”
Certainly, I could’ve graduated under better circumstances than a rocky job market and the threat of economic collapse. But I am one of the lucky ones.
Soon, millions of children and young adults will return to schools and universities across the country—some in person, some all online, some using a combination of instructional methods. The only thing that is certain: nothing will ever be the same.
Many of these students will have crucial moments in their educational careers drastically altered by COVID-19—sports games, school dances, performances and events—to say nothing of the little things they’ll miss out on—hanging out with friends in the parking lot after school, getting together with a friend for lunch, or shaking their professor’s hand.
To any student returning to school during these uncertain times, this letter is for you.
1. I’m sorry.
I don’t envy you. I consider myself lucky to have finished when I did, even if it was in the throes of the pandemic. At least I got to enjoy some of my “lasts” as if they were my lasts.
All of this isn’t to make you feel worse about the situation you’re in. Only to say that there’s someone out there, who was in a similar situation, who feels your pain. I’m sorry. None of you deserved this.
2. Be safe.
It’s been said so much that it’s almost lost its meaning, but it’s true all the same: things will get worse before they get better.
It’s important to look out for your fellow classmates, not just when you’re at school or taking your classes at home, but in your daily life. The circumstances of this new way of learning can affect people in drastically different ways.
Online education is much more difficult for someone with a challenging home situation, or someone without access to the internet. Socially-distanced in-person education can be terrible for people who struggle to connect socially under normal circumstances.
The bottom line is, the more you do to practice safety, the sooner things will be able to go back to normal. Not only for you and your class, but for all the classes that come after you.
3. Be kind to each other.
Aside from taking measures to ensure your and your classmates’ general health and safety, spread some kindness too. Nobody’s enjoying this. The more you can do to make someone’s day a little bit brighter, even if yours isn’t, the easier things will all be.
Smile, even if it’s through a mask. Take time to chat with your classmates and teachers outside of class, even if it’s virtual. Offer to help someone struggling with their homework. It’s the little things that make all the difference.
4. Keep hope alive.
As tough as it may be to accept and embrace, this virus will end. We will be able to see each other again; to have classes in person; to talk with each other.
Things may never be the same, but we will get back to a new normal. And the world will remember how resilient and brave and tenacious the students were during this time.
It’s strange to consider prosperity at such a young age. How your actions will affect and be remembered by future generations. But that’s what the world is asking of you right now.
So far, you’ve proven yourselves up to the task. This year may be your biggest challenge yet. But know that everyone is rooting for you.