Senior year: Expectations v. reality

There’s no semblance of achievement, no rite of passage, nor indication that I’ve finally made it to the home stretch of undergraduate schooling.


Helen Ruhlin , Opinion Editor

A cramped studio apartment, nostalgic walks through the communications wing, a bustling city, and a sky’s-the-limit attitude regarding post-grad endeavors––that’s what I imagined my final semester of senior year would resemble. In other words, that was the expectation.

Here’s the reality: I’m living in an apartment with two friends in the vibrant metropolis of Orono, Maine. My classes are fully online and the few Simmons friends I’ve maintained contact with are only available to me via spontaneous Facetime calls and Instagram story replies. Those nostalgic walks I mentioned earlier have been reduced to daily strolls around the neighborhood and my motivation to succeed after college is… less than lofty at the moment. 

I haven’t been to campus in over a year and graduation has unfortunately (yet appropriately) been switched to a virtual event. There’s no semblance of achievement, no rite of passage, nor indication that I’ve finally made it to the home stretch of undergraduate schooling. And that saddens me. It saddens me because I feel so okay with the way things have gone and the direction they’re going. Bad news no longer surprises me and sympathy from older generations feels meaningless. 

Queue the ol’ reliable “You poor seniors are missing out on the best years of your life.”

From the day I was sent home from studying abroad to the day virtual learning was announced, nothing has seemed to hit me in the way it should. I keep waiting to feel sorry for myself and my peers at the “golden years” we’ve been omitted from, but I can’t even seem to breach the sense of acceptance to get there. 

And maybe I’m an exception in the mix. Perhaps most Simmons students have absorbed the academic repercussions of the pandemic in stride. Maybe they’ve properly grieved the senior year that never was. But for those of us who haven’t, I fear it will be a delayed realization. There’s a plethora of bad that comes from that: lack of validation, untimely imposter syndrome, identity crises, regret, loss, and wasted time to name a few. Who knows when it will sink in. Next year? Five years? Ten years from now?

All I do know is that the abnormal is beginning to feel normal. I’ve gotten used to my nine-to-five indoor routine of waking, eating, typing, reading, and hitting repeat, everyday. But soon, even the slight bit of comfort that my tiny slice of life occupies at the moment will slip away. In a mere three months there won’t be fatiguing Zoom lectures for me to complain about, or 2U discussion posts to grumpily reply to––it’ll just me and the next chapter of life, one without guidance from professors or reassurance from students.

I don’t mention all this to fear those who are thriving or persuade you to stay at Simmons for an extra year, rather to put a name to this zeitgeist that I know I can’t be alone in sensing lately. As our time at Simmons comes to a close, we must soak up gratitude and take pride in what an accomplishment that truly is, regardless of how different things may look. We’re about to achieve something that more than half of the U.S. population won’t and that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

After years of all-nighters in the COMM lab, caffeine overdoses in the library, panicked dashes to the elevators, frigid walks home to dorms, and truly unforgettable meals at Bartol, we’re almost to the finish line. 

Let’s start acting like it.