2020: The Year That Affected us All

From those who battled Coronavirus to those who missed out on future defining opportunities, to those who lost everything they worked so hard for, 2020 was a year that affected us all.

But among these groups are the 2020 graduates, the class that missed out on everything.

The class began the school year with hope and excitement for the events to come: Graduation, prom, senior trip, college, future careers, and adulthood. Losing this coming-of-age transition was bound to challenge these graduates.

Two 2020 graduates: Valerie Rodriguez (Val), an NYU Art History major who graduated from Frank Sinatra High School of the Arts (FSSA), and Vanessa Valdez, a Baruch college Finance major, share their experiences as the first class to graduate in a modern pandemic. 

From a young age, we dream about the day we can walk down the aisle in a cap and gown, hearing our name called out, receiving the diploma we worked so hard for, all while being cheered on and congratulated by an auditorium full of family and friends. Both Valerie and Vanessa share how the modern pandemic stripped them of this hard-earned celebration and much more.

Vanessa felt as if she missed a milestone.

“I was the first in my family to graduate from college. It would’ve been amazing to have been able to celebrate that milestone with my family and friends and have an actual ceremony rather than a 5-minute video of school officials giving speeches,” she said. 

This unfortunate loss can be disheartening. Students like Vanessa didn’t feel celebrated enough from a virtual ceremony that was less likely to be watched and lacking every celebratory element that real graduations hold. 

On the bright side, some schools figured out safe ways to make their students feel genuinely celebrated without putting students and families at risk, one way being drive-by graduations. Although Val also feels she missed the act of receiving a diploma on stage, she enjoyed FSSA’s graduation drive-by. 

“I stuck my head out the sunroof while The Smiths played in the background and felt like I was in a coming of age film,” Val said. 

As a high school senior, the rite of passage is prom, senior trip, and plenty of other senior festivities. Surprisingly, Val reacted differently from how a high school senior is expected to respond. She was frustrated, but mainly for the after-party events. 

“In all honesty, I could care less for these events. I just wanted to hang out with the homies one last time,” Val said.

Of course, missing out on these milestones sucked but, facing a new chapter in life without the standard path was scary for these graduates. Vanessa, a fresh college graduate, entered a world without opportunity. 

“It has been even harder to find a job during these times where everyone is hoping to find one too,” Vanessa added.

Businesses and companies laid off several employees and weren’t looking to hire due to the economic strain and social distancing that Coronavirus graced us with. Vanessa is still looking for work, six months post-graduation. 

As for Val, she was worried about her transition into college. Worried about the Covid-19 regulations, she realized her freshman year wouldn’t be a normal one. Even making friends seemed out of the question. It was a rough transition. 

Switching from physical to remote classes was another challenging factor of the rough transition all students had to deal with globally. Val and Vanessa had no other choice as college students, but to learn remotely and pay the same tuition. They both felt as if the remote classes were not worth the tuition they were paying. 

“I did not have the same opportunities to learn, such as borrowing equipment to learn (laptops, calculators, books), using the library for quiet time to study, or meeting with others to study,” Vanessa explained.

The lack of opportunities that came with remote learning made it more challenging for students to work efficiently and effectively.

Although Val believes the tuition doesn’t reflect the remote classes’ quality, she appreciates the college classes much more than high school. 

“I feel as if I’m being treated like an adult, and my professors are very understanding,” she said.

As Val and Vanessa enter adulthood, they developed routines to stay on track and focus on their education and career, even during the pandemic. Vanessa shared her daily routine, which consists of self-care and career searching. 

“I wake up, make breakfast, workout, clean, search for jobs/apply to jobs, occasionally babysit, but I stay home for most of the time. It’s very different from my college routine where I would wake up and sleep at the same time, go to school for the whole day, and barely have time to work out,” Vanessa said.

Clearly, there is some good in her new routine as she now finds time to cater to herself rather than spending it solely in a classroom. 

Since Val began a new life chapter at NYU, she has adapted and created a balanced routine that focuses on school and personal life. 

“Normally, I wake up around 8 am and go to class until 12 pm-ish depending on the day. Then, I get lunch. However, the exciting part of my day is when I go out from 6 pm until 2 am and chill with my friends around Washington Square Park or Union Square.”

As Val eases her way into adulthood, she plans to pursue a career in her major: Art History. Her current plan consists of acquiring a Ph.D. in Art History, which will lead her to curatorial work or as an art lawyer. But, she has greater things in mind.

“In all honesty, I’d love to live in a cottage somewhere in France or Iceland or Spain and have six dogs and bake all day,” she said.

Vanessa majored in Finance and minored in Marketing and plans to pursue a career in those fields as well. Although she is on the hunt for a job, she is proud of how she handled the transition during the Coronavirus outbreak.

“It could have been worse in terms of learning at home because it’s always noisy and hard to get work done, that’s why I’m at the library a lot at school,” she said.

Val also speaks with gratitude regarding how she handled the high school to college transition amidst the pandemic. 

“It could be worse. I feel grateful to be surrounded by creatives and people in general during this crazy time,” Val said.

— by Aya Eloufir ’21