• Mikayla Nogueira

Dear Class of 2020

I never thought I would be writing this article.

I never thought I would have to. Looking back to September, I don't think anyone saw this coming. Due to COVID-19, otherwise known as the Coronavirus, colleges across the country have had the Spring 2020 semester either cancelled or moved online.

For some, it isn't exactly easy to understand why this would be so heartbreaking. Who doesn't want an extended Spring Break at home with family?

Well I'll tell you why many of us are in pain right now:

Bryant University bulldogs are known for their spirit and sense of community. We look forward to going to our classes because of our incredible professors, we get to see our friends, maybe grab lunch together after, and then make plans for the late nights on weekends. I have never seen a stronger college community than Bryant. Events such as the Festival of Lights, Convocation, BIG Bingo, Around the World, and Catalina Wine Mixer are perfect examples of how strong the community is, especially the current seniors. Bryant has allowed us to find our closest friends. The people who feel like family to us. The people that will be at our weddings. We love being around these people - it just makes our Bryant experience even better.

Having our classes moved online has tested us all, but it has proven how resilient, adaptable, and spirited we all are. We have the ability to persevere like never before. In the beginning, it sort of all felt like a dream. Especially considering how fast it all happened. We had just finished Spring Break, having the time of our lives, when President Machtley announced the news. Suddenly, our smiles went away.

How could this be real? Is senior year ruined? Will we be refunded for housing? Can I do well in online classes? What about senior week and graduation? These are just a few of the questions that were running through our minds when we finished reading that email. Face-to-face classes weren't the only thing cancelled though. All sports were cancelled, and I am so sorry to every athlete who had to bear this sadness. Our last spring concert was cancelled. Nights at Rentes and Effins were cancelled. The production of the spring musical was cancelled. The women's summit was postponed. And so much more.

Once the announcement for online classes was made, many Bryant seniors traveled back to Bryant to pack their bags, some even moving out entirely. Many of us in tears, hugging our friends, unsure when we'd be back in our townhouses. And even though I sit in my home in self-isolation because of COVID-19, I can sense and feel the pain of every college senior at Bryant University and across America, even the world.

It has been a week since the transition to online classes began, and we still don't know the answers to many of the questions running through our minds. Rather than being at Bryant with our friends in our dorms or in class, we are in our homes. Don't get me wrong, home is a great place to be. But since this all began, the dreaded walk from the townhouses to the unistructure doesn't sound so bad right now.

I don't know about you - but it feels like I have been in airplane mode since this all happened. I wake up every morning remembering that I have a new routine and that I am not at Bryant. I wake up every morning wishing none of this was happening. Sometimes, it still doesn't feel real. I watch the news everyday, just waiting for good news. Waiting for an ounce of hope. I am not going to pretend I am okay. I am sad and heartbroken. I am saddened that I can't sit by the pond on my blanket in the sunshine with my friends, watching those around me play frisbee or squash. I am saddened that I can't sit in the roto with my boyfriend before class. I am saddened that I can't see Leo when I get my morning coffee, or Don when I go to Nicks late at night with friends. What about chicken parm thursdays? And then to top it all off with Tom Brady leaving just put me in a really dark place I never thought I'd go.

Yet, I've tried to bury that sadness and pain in order to do well in my classes and push through this pandemic. I have to stay strong for myself and for the people in my life, as do you all.

I feel as though a very important time in my life, my senior year and last semester of college, has been taken away from me. While the President has not officially announced that classes will remain online past the original date proposed, we all know it is coming and are just waiting for the announcement. It is incredibly challenging to live through this time of uncertainty. Not only do we have no idea what the future holds in terms of our senior year and our graduation, we have no idea what will happen with the Coronavirus. This is an ever-changing situation and we are all slowly getting used to daily changes made by the government, while also adapting to online courses and resources at Bryant.

YET - through everything, I am so incredibly proud of the class of 2020.

This particular virus has kicked our asses in many ways, but it has failed to take us down. We have risen up from the challenges put in front of us and have come out as champions. We are doing our online classes. We are making efforts to see our friends whether in person or over video chat. We are finding ways to check in on one another and keep ourselves sane. We are respecting the decisions made by the university. We are making long-distance relationships work. We aren't giving up, and we won't.

In a time of such sadness and uncertainty - we must not forget the last four years at Bryant and the incredible successes we have had. Your senior year is not ruined. While I encourage you to mourn over the heartbreak of this disruption in order to heal, I do want to remind you of the person you've become because of Bryant and the places you will go. This national pandemic will end. The pain will end. It is all temporary.

With that being said, I want to speak on a few things. First, if you're scared you will not find a job because of COVID-19, you will. While it may take a little longer, you will find a job. Please do not live in fear of this. Keep the hope. Many HR hiring employees are working from home, and doing their absolute best to check applications and move forward with hiring processes, it just may not be at the normal pace. Second, we will have a graduation. I don't know when. I don't know how given the circumstances, but I know for a fact that Bryant University will make our graduation happen even if it occurs in a very unconventional way. Third, your friends need you during this time and I encourage us to all continue to be there for one another and remain the spirited Bryant community we are. If we lose hope in this pressing time, we will have disappointed ourselves. Fourth, use this time to reflect on your Bryant experiences and remember the good times. Everything may seem foggy, but sunshine and blue skies are ahead. Make memories somehow, even if it's not in the way you anticipated as the Spring semester started in late January. Finally, I want to encourage everyone to go by facts and not fear. Keep up with your news sources, but do not overwhelm yourselves with information. Be sure to double check everything you read online and do not believe rumors that spark online. Do this for your own sanity.

We are the Bryant University Class of 2020, and while our memories of our senior year will be like none other, we definitely have something to look back on in the future.

As a side note, I want to express my appreciation and gratitude for the following..

Thank you to...

  • The Healthcare workers on the front-lines working tirelessly to fight the virus.

  • The restaurant and retail industries who have selflessly shut down their businesses to protect the public and an extra thank you to those still paying their employees even while the business is closed.

  • The local, state, and federal governments who are working day and night to ensure the curve is flattened and that the economy does not suffer too greatly.

  • The university professors, faculty, and staff who are adapting in order to give the students a smooth transition and experience with online courses and resources.

  • The utilities businesses who are not shutting off water, heat, or electric and are being flexible with bill payments.

  • The teachers who are incorporating distance learning plans for children.

  • The grocery store, pharmacy, and gas station workers who are putting themselves at risk everyday to handle the national emergency.

  • The childcare centers and early development centers willing to take care of children that are no longer in school and have parents working during this time.

  • The people who are following the orders to self-quarantine, social distance, and not go out unless it's for essential needs.

  • Those who are donating supplies to those who need it, especially in the healthcare fields.

  • The people who adopted animals who would be euthanized due to animal shelters closing across the country.

And the list goes on... Thank you. And I am so very sorry to anyone financially struggling during this time. I hear you. I wish I could hug you. It will be okay. Don't give up hope. Don't lose faith. If you need someone to talk to - please reach out to me.

Will will get through this. We will get past this. Go books. Go bulldogs.

Thanks for reading,

Mikayla Jane