(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Winthrop University seniors face a unique set of challenges when it comes to graduating in the midst of a global pandemic.
Following the example of much of the country and world in March, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster ordered all nonessential businesses to close, all universities to move to remote instruction and for people to stay in their homes as much as possible.
These orders are affecting the lives of everyone, however college seniors are in a pivotal position in their lives and the virus is making things even more uncertain.
The week before spring break, Winthrop University was buzzing with rumors about whether or not the university would shut down amidst concerns over the spread of COVID-19, which reached the classification of a global pandemic in early March.
The university began by announcing they would instill two weeks of remote learning after spring break, however, days later McMaster announced that universities were ordered to transition to remote learning for the rest of the semester.
College seniors were uniquely affected by this transition, as it means that commencement ceremonies are postponed to an unknown date, however their concern goes deeper than that.
Isabella Rodriguez, a senior political science major, is concerned about the job market that she and fellow seniors will be entering.
“It’s frustrating because the class of 2020 was supposed to graduate into one of the hottest job markets in a very long time and now there’s a recession,” said Rodriguez.
“I’m hoping for the best, but at least one of the jobs I applied for told me their hiring process is on hold and another one told me that there’s going to be a delay on when I could begin,” she said.
“I have friends who had great jobs secured and those companies faced budget cuts so now they’re jobless and back to square one. It’s scary but I hope we can recover from it.”
Senior English major Lilian Barfield, who plans to begin graduate school in the fall, said she is also worried about her future.
“It has already been really difficult to find a job for the summer and trying to think further ahead to starting graduate school in the fall is crazy,” said Barfield.
“I’m concerned that things might not go back to normal by the fall, that I won’t have the money to continue that path of education, that my housing will fall through at the last minute. There’s so many concerns when it comes to the future that it’s almost impossible to keep track,” she said.
Other students, like senior computer science major Nolan Worthy, are hoping to make things work in a virtual setting.
“I was originally planning on having a job lined up before graduation, but the outbreak has affected things to the point that it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen,” said Worthy.
“As a computer science major, my job is in demand and can be done virtually, so I think I’ll find a job before things get back to normal. Since coming home because of the outbreak I’ve had two job interviews,” he said.
While students are concerned about their job prospects, many of them understand the need for social distancing.
Barfield said she is proud that Winthrop stepped up early and cancelled some classes before the governor issued his order.
“I was generally feeling grateful that classes were moved online after seeing how many colleges in the South really weren’t taking (the pandemic) that seriously at first,” said Barfield.
“I can’t say that it’s my favorite thing to have happened, but I think I learned to quickly appreciate the fact that my university was practicing safety and trying to help students stay home.”
Rodriguez said she feels sad about the sudden end to her college career.
“It sounds superficial, but I’m upset about my senior year ending so abruptly. It feels weird to go out this way and it’s difficult to finish this way,” Rodriguez said.
Additionally, many students are also concerned for the health of themselves and others.
“My greatest concern for the world is the death toll the virus will have if our leaders don’t make human life the priority. Not enough is being done and it’s frustrating to watch some people risk their lives and the lives of others while everyone else is doing the right thing by staying home,” said Worthy.
“My greatest concern for myself is the mental toll of not being able to hang out with friends for several months. Staying at home where there’s only my family and schoolwork becomes stressful after long enough.”