A senior year unlike any other

Olivia Jacob and her Alpha Phi sorority sister after their virtual Red Dress Gala in November 2020.

Submitted By: Olivia Jacob

Olivia Jacob and her Alpha Phi sorority sister after their virtual Red Dress Gala in November 2020.

Isabella Pacinelli

“Last year when they announced no one could walk, in my head I was like ‘wow that sucks for them’ but at least that’s not me,” senior Olivia Jacob said. “I know that’s kind of selfish, but it’s true and this year we still don’t know if we’ll actually be able to walk for graduation.”

Despite plans for the upcoming spring commencement to be in-person, Ashland University seniors are still on edge about the prospect of a repeat from last year. 

Many seniors, like Jacob, did not think the Coronavirus pandemic would affect much of their college experience. 

“When Covid first became a problem, we left school in the middle of our junior year,” she said. “We thought ‘oh it’ll only be for a few weeks’ and that didn’t happen. It’s a very unique situation I never thought I would be in.”

While the reality of a country-wide lockdown proved to be disheartening for the class of 2020, the current seniors of AU have had to endure a final year that consists of social distancing and wearing masks, among other changes. 

For Jacob, the hardest part about being a college senior during the pandemic has been not being able to see as many friends. 

“It’s tough not being able to experience things that we were supposed to, that we were planning on senior year,” she said. “Usually you’re all 21 and can go on trips and have fun.”

As a member of Alpha Phi sorority, Jacob has also had to adjust to Covid-19 guidelines that have influenced her membership. 

“We’re slowly doing things in person but it’s only small groups,” she said. “None of us can be in a small room just hanging out like we used to do, you know, being able to see each other’s faces without having to wear a mask.” 

A senior staple within the Fraternity and Sorority Life community includes a semi-formal and formal where members sing and dance to their chapter songs. 

“It’s really sad because that’s something you’re really looking forward to — singing with your other senior sisters, having fun and dancing,” Jacob said. “Not having a senior formal is really disappointing.” 

Senior Nick Reimund is on the AU track and cross country teams. Similar to how the FSL community is impacted, athletes have found disappointment amidst the pandemic as well. 

Nick Reimund’s cross country team competing in a normal setting his junior year. (Submitted by: Nick Reimund)

“Competing is difficult because you don’t have the big meet atmosphere,” he said. “There’s no spectators, there’s no one to cheer you on — your parents can’t come to meets, sometimes your teammates can’t even be there.”

With athletes being tested regularly at practice and before games, players have seen the domino effect of a positive Covid-19 result. 

“It’s kind of scary because the team has a really good chance of winning it and if one of the kids test positive or one of their roommates test positive, it could ruin the championship run for the whole team,” Reimund said. 

Some of Reimund’s favorite things to do while at school are attend AU football games and enjoy time with friends, whether on this campus or off. 

“You want to go out and spend time with your friends but you’re putting yourself at risk and you’re putting people who could potentially get really hurt from the virus at risk,” he said. 

Although there are many activities that AU seniors have missed out on, both Reimund and Jacob have adapted a ‘go with the flow’ mindset. 

“You do your best, whether you’re FaceTiming with friends or watching games on live streams now,” Reimund said. “You do what you can to get through it.”

Jacob likes to remind herself that the rest of the world is experiencing these same changes. 

“It’s about doing what you can to be there for other people, while still experiencing your life because we are young adults and we don’t want to be missing out on all these experiences,” she said. “But we’re doing it for the safety of others, so we have to keep that in mind.” 

President Carlos Campo expressed gratitude for the amount of sacrifices that, not only the senior class, but everyone on campus has made to finish this academic year strong. 

It feels like we’ve all been cheated a little bit from what the collegiate experience should be,” he said. “It does feel as though the very reason that a lot of students come to Ashland, and the reason that a lot of us serve here, is missing.” 

Throughout the year, Campo has seen many acts of kindness from the students at AU. 

“When people are challenged it brings out the best and the worst in us — I’d like to focus on the best,” he said. “I saw them reaching out to the community, I saw them continuing to volunteer when they could, I saw them extending lots of grace to one another.”

Campo has been especially inspired by the seniors who stayed engaged and eager to finish out their final year strong, despite the chaos surrounding them.

“It may not have been the year they wanted, but I heard from a lot of students that they still pushed on their senior projects,” he said. “They stayed with it and that in and of itself is really inspiring because it wasn’t true on a lot of campuses.”

During this time of uncertainty, Campo sensed that there was a new sharing of suffering together. 

“We all kind of had to change our lives and focus on what was really important. It sounds cliché, but this idea that you don’t really appreciate things until they are taken from you,” he said. “We all saw that with people in our families and circle of friends that we lost to Covid or just in terms of activities and simple things.”

When it comes to finding the silver lining, Campo hopes seniors will see that this stage of life has brought about many lessons they can take with them after graduation. 

“I’d also like to thank them because I’m remembering their full experience and although their senior year wasn’t what any of us anticipated, I think of myself as someone that’s part of the community that was really blessed by this senior class,” he said. 

Jacob feels blessed herself to have been able to be on campus for most of this academic year. 

“Even though it is different, we’re still here in person. I’m still hanging out with my roommates and we still get to spend time together before we graduate which is a really good thing,” she said. “There are people at other colleges who are still online and so we’re really lucky that we are able to be here.”

Nick Reimund (center) and his teammates Steven Kapes (left) and Duvan Bautista-Catalan (right). (Submitted By: Nick Reimund)

Reimund believes this time has forced him to become an adult before he was truly ready and for that, he is grateful.

“I think the best thing for me personally, has just been how I’ve matured pretty quickly, how I’ve grown and become a lot more organized and a lot more on top of things I need to do like the job search,” he said. 

Reimund and Jacob are excited to graduate and start their careers. 

Perhaps a senior year unlike any other was just what these students needed to learn the importance of resilience and courage throughout their lives.