Counseling Center

April 20, 2020

To the Class of 2020: Transitions in a time of crisis

Posted by Gianna Galindo, M.A., Doctoral Candidate, Psychology Intern, UWCC

The sun is out and the cherry blossoms are peaking. Spring quarter marks the start of new growth and transitions. For some of you, this quarter will be your last at UW as you graduate in June. COVID-19 has brought many heartbreaking losses and some uniquely saddening ones for the Class of 2020. The disruption of capstone projects and labs, missed senior traditions, premature goodbyes, and the cancellation of (in-person) commencement to name a few. All of this compounded by the gravity of an ongoing pandemic and potentially some survivor’s guilt.

Commencement isn’t just a ceremony and a thesis isn’t just a long essay. These are rituals that mark important transitions for us. Some may say rites of passage. These final rituals signify our skills and academic achievements, but they mean much more than that. They represent our personal achievements, long hours in Odegaard, our grit, enduring sleep deprivation, and the commitment we’ve made to the fields that we’ve chosen to pursue.

The cancellation of in-person gatherings and celebrations is absolutely necessary for everyone’s safety. That being said, a virtual graduation is certainly not the same as sitting together in Husky Stadium and Zoom breakout rooms are not the same as in-class discussions. With so much going on in the world right now, I want to take a moment to pause, recognize, and acknowledge you all. To the first-generation graduates and your families. To the art students who aren’t able to display their graduation exhibitions. To the doctoral students who have to defend their dissertations over Zoom. To the ROTC students who aren’t able to have their commissioning ceremonies. To the chemistry students who aren’t able to conduct their final labs. I am feeling devastated for you and I feel your grief.

With the abundance of uncertainty overshadowing us, I want to leave you with some certainty. Class of 2020, you’re no strangers to challenging situations – from the 2018 Apple Cup, the snowpocalypse of 2019, and now a pandemic. You are resilient, and these recent losses do not take away the hard work you’ve put in and the wisdom you’ve gained during your time at UW. What we are experiencing is a collective trauma and this trauma may be challenging your resilience right now. However, what we know about adversity is that it creates the potential for positive change or what we call posttraumatic growth. Things don’t feel okay right now, but we will rise through this together.