Leaving Emerson College: Two months too soon

After walking across the stage of Agganis Arena in May and receiving my diploma from Emerson College, my post-graduation plans were to snap photos under the blooming cherry blossoms in Boston’s Public Garden, grab my favorite lobster rolls for lunch, and board one of those loud, colorful duck boats—cap and gown and all—to tour the city I’ve called home these past few years one last time. 

I’ve dreamt about this day since I was a freshman, and sadly, now it will continue to stay a dream.

Emerson College Los Angeles Center, where I and approximately 200 others were spending our last semester at, announced March 13 that the remainder of spring classes would be conducted entirely online in response to widespread cases of the novel COVID-19, a respiratory illness commonly referred to as Coronavirus. Students were instructed to vacate the Hollywood campus within a week and return home for the rest of the academic year.

In a matter of hours, seniors bid farewell to their college careers two months too soon. Out went sitting at the fire pit with friends and talking late into the night, stopping by IXLB Dimsum Eats before rushing to our internships, and hiking the hills of L.A. as a way to relax after a long week of working and studying. 

Then came the dreadful but expected news that commencement would not be happening.

“Regretfully, I write to you today to inform you that Undergraduate and Graduate Commencement Weekend activities and events, scheduled for Saturday, May 9 and Sunday, May 10, will in fact be postponed this year,” President Lee Pelton wrote in an email to the college community on March 24. “While the traditional exercises will be postponed, I want you to know that we are committed to celebrating this year’s graduating class, and the College is exploring ways to honor the achievements of the Class of 2020.”

Even with President Pelton’s promise of a virtual ceremony and potential in-person event this Fall, these uncertain times mean that nothing is guaranteed. And there is no one to blame for the situation, really. 

According to the California Department of Public Health, there are currently 5,763 positive cases of Coronavirus in the state, and the number is predicted to rise exponentially in the coming weeks. Testing kits are a rare commodity, a vaccine for the virus is nowhere to be found, and the supermarket aisles are astonishingly empty. The school’s actions in the middle of this pandemic are nothing short of necessary, but that doesn’t mean it hurts any less.

Although what’s happening is depressing and heartbreaking, there’s some comfort in knowing that what I’m feeling resonates with all the other seniors as well. We’re in this together, just like we were when we first moved into Little Building as wide-eyed freshmen. Commencement or not, we did it — and nothing can take away the memories we’ve made or the accomplishments we’ve achieved along the way. 

So even though I won’t be getting on that duck boat in May and going out with a quack, I’m glad I’ll still be finishing this chapter with the pack.

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