I interviewed senior Hope Turner, a public health major from the University of Georgia, about her experiences in the past couple of months as a graduate during the coronavirus pandemic. Hope was the New Member Educator for the sorority I joined this past fall and we quickly became friends, bonding over our love of the infamous boyband, One Direction. Hope is an extremely kind, intelligent, and passionate person, which anyone would be able to tell by meeting her. Hope shared with me both the surprising positives and not-so-surprising negatives she found during the past couple months that we have been thrown into a pandemic and she found out her senior year would not be a typical one.
1. Where did you/are you graduating from?
Hope is graduating from the University of Georgia, in Athens, GA, this year.
2. What has it been like spending your last semester under quarantine amidst the coronavirus pandemic?
Hope explains that "it's been pretty weird" spending her last semester under quarantine "because it doesn't feel like I'm graduating." Since she hasn't gotten "any closure, it feels like (she's) home for the summer and going back" to school in the fall. "It's been hard to wrap my head around that," says Hope.
3. Of all the things you missed out on because of quarantine, what has been the hardest to accept?
"It's been hard to accept that we can't have a big graduation," Hope explains, adding that along with a graduation ceremony she is missing "a lot of lasts." She has realized now that her "lasts were last semester," in the fall rather than this spring like she expected.
4. What has been a silver lining?
According to Hope, a big silver lining is that this pandemic has expanded her career opportunities, since she is graduating with a bachelors degree in public health. "Two years ago no one even knew what that was," says Hope about her public health major. She adds that "spending a lot of time with my friends and family" has also been "secretly, surprisingly nice."
5. What have you done to make up for some of the graduation traditions you aren't able to do?
Hope explains that her and her friends "had a graduation party on May 8th, when graduation was supposed to be held." They also had a "fake G-Day," where they watched last year's G-Day on TV and wore jerseys. G-Day is a longtime tradition at UGA in which the football team holds a scrimmage game during the spring semester. The girls also "took pictures on campus in their caps and gowns" in order to make it feel more like they were graduating.
6. What are your next steps, and have they been impacted by coronavirus?
Hope is planning on working for a year to "get experience" and then plans on getting her masters in public health. She explains, "this has given me time to think about what I want to do." The pandemic and the changes to life that have come with it have actually reassured Hope that taking a year off to work is a good idea because she wants "things to be back to normal when she goes back to school," since she doesn't enjoy online classes.
7. What is the worst thing someone can say to a Class of 2020 graduate?
Although it's not directly saying something, Hope says that it has particularly hurt "when people who graduated in 2019 post their pictures because I don't get to do that." I think we can all agree that posting your past graduation pictures right now, is not a nice move.
8. What is one piece of advice you would love to give to the class of 2021?
Hope encourages the class of 2021 to "really live in the moment and enjoy everything, even more than normal." She explains how she didn't know that her last time hanging out with her friends or going to a college party was going to be her last time, which has taught her to never take those kind of moments for granted since "you don't know when" they'll end.
9. What about the last few months do you think you'll remember most?
Reflecting on the positives during this time, Hope believes she will always remember "the funny jokes that cam out of" this time and "all the activities" her friends and families planned "out of boredom that ended up being so much more fun than (they) thought they would be." She told me of the "theme nights" her friends had and how they "learned a bunch of games," all of which they "would've never done if it weren't for quarantine."
10. Do you think the graduation UGA has planned for this October for the class of 2020 will be as important and impactful as the original one in May would have been?
"I think so," says Hope, explaining that it will give her and her friends closure since they've "all been looking forward to it so much more." Hope "realized how important" a graduation ceremony was to her only once she "couldn't have it," so the graduation ceremony in October may turn out be even more impactful for this graduate.