"I Was Preparing For Graduation This Year, But COVID-19 Happened"

Here are personal accounts from two college seniors.
by Mylene Mendoza   |  Apr 15, 2020
Image: INSTAGRAM/delbarriomarvin, frannybalburias
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College, they say, is one of the experiences that would shape who we become before we enter the real world. While academics is the priority and is naturally of grave importance, there’s a world beyond it that college let’s us experience. It’s where many of us experience our “firsts,” but it’s also where we get to have a bunch of “lasts” that we wouldn’t get anywhere else.

In a snap though, college—and the rest of the world—as we know it was put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic we are collectively facing. Classes were shifted to platforms on the internet, our houses became our campuses, and learning required more willpower and determination that it ever did back when things were “normal.”

It’s especially an unusual experience for college seniors. If you thought they’d have gone through everything college can throw at them, you thought wrong. It was supposedly the last year they get to pull all-nighters for thesis, attend sports games and cheer for their school as a supportive student, and spend times with friends turned families. 

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Two college seniors, Franny and Marvin, share their thoughts on being a senior student in the time of COVID-19.

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Nobody expected for that one normal Monday to be their last day in school.

“I remember my last day of school being a really subpar day, actually.” Franny Balburias, a senior Communication student from Ateneo de Manila University, shares. “It wasn’t one of the best days since it was also a Monday and I had an 8 a.m. class huhu.”

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It also seemed like a regular school day for Marvin del Barrio, a Multimedia Arts senior at CIIT College of Arts & Technology . “It was a Monday which was my 3D Animation class from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Classes in my school are always this long since the subjects are held once a week,” he says. “We were animating a river and a boat.” 

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School life during the ECQ is about attempting to establish a new “normal.”

Franny and Marvin had a somewhat different experience from each other when it came to their school lives during ECQ. Franny’s school went on to adapt to online classes, while Marvin’s opted for suspension of classes.

“My school has suspended classes earlier, but this week, they resumed,” Marvin says. “However, it’s not the typical online classes. Since we are heading to finals, professors just gave the requirements we need to finish until the end of April so our school calendar won’t be affected.”

Everyone, even the professors, had to be patient with one another when it came to making adjustments. “During the first week of the ECQ, [my school] pushed through with classes,” says Franny. “I remembered it being kind of difficult since the set-up of having discussions online wasn’t as engaging as when we would have it in school but nonetheless, the teachers gave it their best effort. After that week, they cancelled online classes and restricted teachers from requiring any homework to pass due to how difficult the situation was for others. I understood why they did it but I guess I was still holding on to that sense of normalcy of my last semester still pushing through.”

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It sucks to miss out on hallmark college experiences, but there are more serious problems to face.

Given the unstable state of COVID-19 cases in the country, there’s a sense of uncertainty revolving around when it’s officially safe to step out and head back to our campuses. This means that, for seniors, majority of their last college experiences have been pushed out of the picture. 

“For Ateneans, we won’t have our last Bonfire and Athletes’ Night. We won’t have our Pabaon from Fr. Jett or our Blue Roast, which are events the seniors have every year to celebrate,” shares Franny. “To top it all off, we’re not even sure if we’ll be having a graduation. I think it was the one I looked forward to the most because it was supposed to be the closing chapter to my college life. It makes me feel very sad. At times I’d choose to reminisce on the previous years by scrolling through old photos since I won’t be getting a last look at my school again.”

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Marvin also feels the same kind of longing for their old life in school. “To be honest, before this happened, back at school I was always telling myself that I can’t wait to go home, but I totally regret it now,” he says. “I was also excited about some subjects I’m currently taking, like my foreign language subject where we are learning to speak Nihongo and write in Katakana. I never thought I would miss school a lot.”

While it’s disheartening not to experience your last moments in college, both know that there graver issues to overcome. 

“Starting out the ECQ, I was very troubled and sad because it took away the normalcy of things and it took away all the experiences I wanted to have as a senior," says Franny. "But I saw how a lot of people—the frontliners who were working day and night to care for the sick, the less fortunate who are struggling every day to put food on their tables, the homeless who are struggling to find a place to sleep, the small business who are doing their best to keep things going—were having the most difficult time and it made me focus my energy on that instead of sulking about the experiences I couldn’t have. With this, I made sure to help in any little way that I could by sharing posts about donations, also donating to those organizations, and to just help spread the love and generosity to anyone that needs it.

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“With regards to my own personal growth, I took the ECQ as a time to get used to how it would be without going to school and to training. I tried to tell myself that this is practice for me when I begin a new chapter of my life. I would have wanted to end my college life and cheer career on other terms but I guess this would be okay, too. It helps me ease into the new things I’ll have to get used to.”

Are you and your batchmates experiencing something similar? Share your thoughts and experiences over at Candy Bulletin.

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Mylene Mendoza
Candy Staff Writer
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