• Melissa Lipari

A Pedacito of Graduating During a Global Pandemic

Updated: Jun 19

December 2020 felt like a million miles away when I was sitting in my advisor’s office as a junior in college. I had transferred to LIM College from Montclair State University as a sophomore - and unfortunately, all of my credits didn’t transfer over.


So, I was graduating college a semester behind. It kind of sucked to hear at first because I knew that I wasn’t going to have a graduation ceremony that lined up with my final semester. I know walking across the stage for a fake piece of paper isn’t the reason we go to college - but it was something I had looked forward to. I had no idea that in the next year, the entire world was going to turn upside down.

Cap and gown in hand as I get ready to graduate
Cap and gown in hand as I get ready to graduate

Fast forward from spring of 2019 to spring of 2020, I was in the middle of my final academic semester. Next semester, I was planning to intern full-time for credit, then my diploma would be complete. I was loving all of my classes, and I only had to attend school in-person twice a week. It felt like my senior year couldn’t get any better... until the first week of March hit.


I had a nasty sinus infection that developed, plaguing my ears, nose, and throat, in early March. I was out of school for an entire week, not knowing that I would never go back in person. A few days later, the first case of COVID-19 hit New York City. Being that my college was in the heart of Midtown, it wasn’t long before classes went from in-person to fully remote. Suddenly, everything had changed, and senior year wasn’t the beacon of hope for new opportunities.

Graduation was a little different this year because of Covid
Graduation was a little different this year because of Covid

In the beginning, I felt like I was on borrowed time. It was weird to be home with nowhere to go besides nightly walks after dinner and the occasional grocery store run. We all thought that the virus would go away in a few months and life would return to normal. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen - and I finished my spring semester from my bedroom.


Summer came quickly, and before I knew it, I was looking for my fall internship. I had gone on several interviews and applied for countless positions, but nobody was looking to add to their team. With the pandemic in such an uncertain state, everyone was on edge about the future of the job market. I started my final semester of college without an internship, which was a total bummer. Luckily, my two supplementary classes were 6 credits each, so I stayed a full-time student. I am very grateful that my school came out with a program that replaced senior internships for those who couldn’t secure one in time.


September - December flew by even faster than the previous months. I was doing well in all of my courses and was learning new industry topics that I probably wouldn’t have dipped my toes into- had I not been enrolled in these classes. I enjoyed my final semester because it allowed me to experiment with course topics that were outside of my graduation plan. Sure, I wish that I had an internship to help ease my introduction to the job market, but I was grateful that I was still graduating on “time”. It felt better to know that all of my peers were a part of “Zoom University” too, with the same woes of online learning that I was facing.

A celebratory dinner with my parents after graduation
A celebratory dinner with my parents after graduation

Then, the week before Christmas was upon me, and my final presentations were in full swing. In just a few days, I went from being a college student to a graduate. There was no virtual ceremony for fall graduates, but it was okay because I would be invited to the spring ceremony as I had always planned. We all were in the same boat with no graduation parties, in-person ceremonies, etc. so it didn’t feel as weird to shut my laptop on December 17th as an emerging college grad.


The weekend following graduation, my parents took my boyfriend and me to dinner and we had cake at my house as a celebration. It wasn’t what I had imagined a year ago, but it was just as special. It felt good to have the largest parts of my support system with me, and in the end, I realized that was all that mattered. I didn’t care about having an expensive dress with a black cap and matching gown - I cared about who was there to cheer me on.

Graduation wasn't as I expected it this year but I was still happy
Graduation wasn't as I expected it this year but I was still happy

There is no rule book for how to graduate during a pandemic, although I wish there was. The first two months were a little rough for me as I tried to navigate what I wanted to do with my professional career. With the job market so slim, I felt like I didn’t have many options. I interviewed with companies I wasn’t passionate about and got offers that didn’t feel right to me. I am grateful that I had those offers and got the opportunity to interview with some big names, but I knew that freelancing was the right step for me.


Now, I’m happily writing from my own home, two months after my college graduation. Could I have predicted my career to go this way? No, not at all. But am I grateful that among all this uncertainty I was able to pursue my dreams of being a full-time writer? Absolutely.


Feeling the graduation love
Feeling the graduation love
 

Want to know more? Are you interested in becoming a contributor for Pedacitos? We'd love to hear your stories! Send me a message and I will get back to you!



19 views0 comments