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College seniors come to terms with ending their education away from campus

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Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/20/2020 8:16:40 AM

The last photo Alexandra Williams has of her with her closest college friends and roommates shows them piled together on a couch, with wide grins, as they move out of their dorms.

None of them were in the same room when it was taken.

Each girl had to return to their dorm alone to collect their things. The friends arranged to take a photo of themselves in a different spot on the couch, and their final photo was Photoshopped together.

Williams, a Hancock resident and interior design major at Endicott College, said it’s not how she wanted to say that goodbye. But it’s only one of many “lasts” of her time at college that has been stolen by the coronavirus, and having to finish her final year of schooling online.

Like many people, she left her campus for spring break, expecting it to be extended, but never guessing school wouldn’t resume.

“I didn’t get the opportunity to say good-bye to a lot of people. There’s a lot of people that I see day-to-day that I may never see again. I experienced a lot of my lasts without even knowing it. Staying up late doing homework together. Eating in the dining hall. I won’t do those things again,” Williams said.

And a lot of those “lasts” may never exist at all.

“College is a way to make lifelong memories with lifelong friends,” wrote Riley Drew of Jaffrey, a Conant High School graduate and senior at Plymouth State University. “It is a chance to find who you really are, and believe me, I did, yet I didn’t get to finish that journey.”

Drew said for this year’s crop of seniors, there is no Spring Fling, Senior Week, finals, and perhaps no graduation, at least not with their full class. And there can be real grief over those losses.

“This different kind of grief, of losing your dreams and finally completing and celebrating four years of hard work, is one that is hard to comprehend,” Drew said. “You have the memories, bound by photos on your phone, or encompassed by the unwanted extra pounds from the late-night trips to get ice cream, yet you didn’t get to finish those favorite moments.”

It’s not just those memories left unfinished.

Molly McCreery of Greenville is currently in her final year at New England Law, and said the coronavirus has not only disrupted her last year, but also pushed back her professional career by at least a few months.

McCreery, who has been offered a job at a firm where she is currently interning, and was set to take the bar exam in July. However, many states, including New Hampshire, have delayed the bar exam until this fall. She had also begun to get some courtroom experience during a clinic with the Suffolk County District Attorney. But when the courts shut down for all but a few select cases, student prosecutors were asked not to attend in person, and have been finishing their clinics remotely through paperwork.

“That was a hands-on experience, and it was something I was really looking forward to, and that’s why I saved it for my last semester,” McCreery said. “And now, it’s been cut short.”

“It’s frustrating, because I’ve been working towards this for seven years,” McCreery said. And while she’s been made an offer, McCreery said, she doesn’t know what the job market will look like when she is able to officially start practicing.

“The legal field in general is very saturated, very competitive, and there’s rumors going around that positions and salaries are being cut.”

Williams said she too, had already begun the job hunt before the country essentially shut down, applying for an entry-level job, but hiring for that position has been suspended, and Williams said she doesn’t know yet when or if the firm will begin hiring again.

Drew said she plans to return to her college for post-graduate studies in the fall. She is studying elementary education, and said she had already completed her student teaching requirement before the campus shut down. She said she was lined up to work as a camp counselor this summer, before returning to school for her Master’s degree, but now, she said, she doesn’t know if the camp will be operating, or what her alternatives are.

“Everything’s been up in the air,” Drew said.

Drew, who is a class officer, said the school has been pushing to be able to hold milestones like graduation once the situation returns to normal, but she knows there are students who won’t be able to return for it.

“You don’t get to say goodbye the way you wanted, and most importantly, you don’t get to celebrate all you have done in the way you dreamed of,” Drew said.


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