The Class of 2020 graduation ceremony was supposed to be a big day to prove to my family, friends, peers, and teachers that I had accomplished great things in the last four years—but COVID-19 had other plans. Graduation day was no longer going to be the magical day to say a final goodbye to my favorite friends that I only saw in school. Instead, it was a day filled with tears. Some tears were happy because we had finally made it to that finish line, and some were sad because not having a normal ending to senior year was unimaginable.
Grief comes in many forms, and I believe I went through several stages of it after hearing the governor of Illinois say that schools would not be reopening for the remainder of the school year. I was grieving the loss of friendships, classes that I loved, and teacher relationships that didn’t get proper closure—and I know many seniors across the country felt the same way.
I delivered a speech earlier last fall entitled “I Believe Change Is a Good Thing.” Never did I think a change this monumental could have occurred so soon after writing and delivering that speech. Dealing with change is a very difficult task to do on your own; maintaining friendships and healthy relationships with those closest to you—as well as keeping your mind occupied to prevent those dreaded intrusive thoughts—is essential for getting through these unprecedented times. So, here are some ideas for the Class of 2020 to help you stay connected to friends and keep busy in the months before our first semester of college—whatever that may look like!
Everyone’s experiencing a lack of human contact, meaningful interactions, and topics to talk about when they communicate right now. The best way to feel connected and stay socially active during these isolated times is to actively seek ways to interact with friends and loved ones even though you may not be able to be with them in person.
Throughout this whole experience, I’ve found that my favorite method of staying connected to my friends is through group Zoom meetings. On these video chats, we play games like Ellen’s PSYCH! and Would You Rather? These games are fun because they spark new conversations and help you relax and just have fun with your friends for a couple of hours.
These meetings have started to replace our daily lunch outings, hanging out together on the weekends, and, of course, being together in class. While it’s different and takes some adjusting to get used to, it’s worth learning how to use it—we might be using this technology a lot if in-person classes can’t be held on campus this fall.
Another way to stay connected is through FaceTime. When using this app, I’ve found the group feature to be just as effective as Zoom, so it really comes down to personal preference. I use FaceTime about as often as Zoom but typically for one-on-one conversations as opposed to group meetings. Try it out if you want to use video chatting as a means of communicating face to face.
Recently, I’ve jumped headfirst into reading for pleasure again, and I’m loving it. It has inspired me to encourage other people to read, and nothing brings people together like a good book! Starting a book club is a great way to spark up new conversations that don’t feel overdone.
One of the biggest issues in quarantine has been struggling to find things to talk about since we all have less going on, but after reading a book recommended to me by a friend then talking to her about it, I finally had something to be excited to talk about again. If you’re interested in starting a book club of your own, try out a mystery novel; they’re always fun to discuss with fellow readers, especially to see what everyone thought would happen in the end.
Occupying your mind
In addition to staying connected during this time, it’s important to explore new hobbies that’ll keep your mind not only occupied but engaged in thought, which allows for the stimulation people are so desperate for right now.
Learn a new language
With all this time on our hands, why not learn a new language or pick up one that started to drift after high school? This is the perfect time to start learning a new language, and with apps such as Duolingo and podcasts on Spotify, it’s never been easier to immerse yourself in a new language. Not only does learning a new language stimulate the brain, but it also breaks down a communication barrier. In times like this, we need to stay connected; what better way to do that than to take the time to learn a language that’ll help you communicate with an entirely new community of people?
Minimize your stuff
If you’re anything like me, you probably have a closet full of random things that haven’t been touched in at least a few months—or maybe years. During quarantine, I’ve made it my mission to declutter and minimize my belongings by getting rid of the random items that I don’t need anymore. Donating items you don’t need is a great way of giving back, and you’ll feel better about your newly organized spaces.
Bring back an old favorite hobby
I used to spend hours every summer making stacks of friendship bracelets that would stay on all summer until they finally fell off my arm. I decided to revisit this hobby during quarantine, and I’ve spent weeks making them for myself and other people. It gives me something to do other than lie in bed and requires a large amount of concentration, keeping my mind focused. So try bringing back that old hobby you dropped long ago—you won’t regret it!
After the emotional struggles I (and many other students) have faced during COVID-19, I feel like I’ve grown a lot because of this experience. I can be nothing but grateful for my health and for those putting their lives on the line to keep everyone safe. Senior year may not have been the culmination of high school life that the Class of 2020 expected it to be, but the point is, there’s a time for grieving and a time for gratitude. With all this time on our hands, it’s important to try to process both, stay connected, and challenge ourselves to be productive and positive—that’s how we’ll get through this.
If you’re struggling with the uncertainty and emotions that came with the coronavirus pandemic, visit our COVID-19 student resources page for more advice.