Dear Class of 2020,

I don’t know about you, but as I finished my last final of my graduate degree this week, I was in a state of shock. I felt like the biggest trauma (cough, first semester) and the greatest joy (my classmates!) of my life had just ended. The sheer breadth of what we have just experienced – the depths and the heights– is almost incomprehensible.

As I am trying to grapple with all of these normal end-of-something feelings, with an added layer of global pandemic on top, I’ve been considering how we can best digest the profundity of this experience.

The reality is that I am heartbroken. Heartbroken we missed out on all of our post-Spring Break hangouts, serendipitous on-campus run-in’s, and off-campus adventures. Heartbroken that we aren’t meeting each other’s families on campus and taking a million photos together this graduation season. There’s something about the joy of in-person human connection that has been heightened and illuminated for me during this time. Being around my on-campus community brought me such joy and sense of belonging, and I’ll never forget that.

Despite not having the celebration and ceremony we expected, I want us to take advantage of this this unanticipated time and space in a meaningful way.

As I consider my graduation from undergrad, I think of celebration, photos, family, friends, food, drink, and utter chaos as I rapidly closed the door from one chapter of my life and hurriedly opened the next one. While I celebrated, I don’t think I reflected.

We all approached our higher education with different motivations, different lived experiences, and different expectations, but I imagine we have all experienced tremendous personal and professional growth, lived vibrant experiences we could have never imagined, and met people that have changed the course of our lives. 

I encourage us all to reflect on this time so that we can celebrate our successes, learn from our mistakes, bear witness to our growth, and emerge from this experience having captured the full value of our time as students. 

Here are some ways I propose we honor this time and reflect:

1.    Take out your admissions essay and look at what you wrote. Remember the person you were before this experience and write about the ways you’ve grown and changed since then.

2.    Make a list of things you accomplished that make you proud. Celebrate your successes! You did some amazing things!

3.    Reflect on some of the high highs and low lows and what you learned from those moments. How will you apply those learnings moving forward?

4.    Recall the most interesting projects you worked on, the most exciting places you traveled, and the most interesting things you learned. What surprised you in a good way about your experience?

5.    Consider the people who touched your life during this time: Who did you learn from? Who supported you when you needed help? Who did you have fun with? Who do you admire from afar and why? Who from outside of your program supported you along this journey? Consider expressing gratitude to the people who shaped your experience in a meaningful way. Perhaps write them an email, a letter, a WhatsApp message, or call them to tell them how they impacted you.

Let’s choose our own ending to this story and let’s make it one fueled with gratitude, intentional contemplation, and a sense of accomplishment. We have achieved so much, expanded our minds and our hearts, and grown in innumerable ways.

I see you, Class of 2020.

With love and gratitude,