Coming to terms with some unresolved ends

The effects of the COVID-19 virus pandemic are being felt around the globe, most notably through the closure of school campuses. Professors and students have had to adapt to online classes, but such a universal experience has had a unique impact on seniors and study-abroad students.

With the decision to stream Commencement via Facebook and YouTube at 10 a.m. on May 16, seniors have been hit with an abrupt end to their true college experience.

“Block six has been difficult for me. I left campus for spring break, expecting to be back in a week, on March 12. I drove seven hours home to Colorado, only to find out I would not be able to return to Nebraska for at least a few months. I now know I have already attended my last on-campus class, which is bittersweet, and likely won’t ever see some members of the campus community again. Since I will graduate in May, I still have to go pack up everything I own and clean my apartment one more time, to say a permanent and unexpectedly sad goodbye to my home of four years. I am thankful for our outstanding staff and faculty who have adjusted with us, and extremely grateful for the ways we can digitally connect to our friends. I do wish I could say goodbye in person,” said Senior Celeste Borg, a psychology major, and Spanish and women’s and gender studies minor.

For students studying overseas, like Junior Rachel Schmalz, a history and political science double major, country lockdowns have changed their plans for this semester, and potentially future ones.

Schmalz, studying at American University in Bulgaria (AUBG), had been visiting the UK after AUBG went online in early March, deciding to stay due to the impracticality of international travel when the COVID-19 pandemic gained traction.

“I decided to extend my traveling and stay with my boyfriend’s family in England while I was doing online classes. Once Trump put his travel ban in place everything went crazy, I was getting messages saying ‘don’t leave the UK’ and I might have been able to go to Bulgaria to get my things. But then the cases of COVID-19 tested positive in Bulgaria, and AUBG decided to go online for the rest of the semester. And that day I flew to Bulgaria, gathered my things, and came back to the UK. And I’ve been here since then. I’m hoping to make it back to the states in May, but because of the travel restrictions, it could take almost 40 hours and four to five airports to get to Denver, Colorado. Flights also range from about $600 to $2,000. If there weren’t any restrictions in place I could fly from London to Denver nonstop,” Schmalz said.

Even the relatively short process of flying to Bulgaria from the UK and back was a sample of procedures like temperature checks and extended time in customs that could be expected from a much longer flight to the United States at this time.

“This isn’t the study abroad experience I was expecting, but it’s an adventure nonetheless,” Schmalz said.