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Seniors reflect on COVID-19, final quarter at Stanford

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As spring quarter surpasses its midway point and students still don’t know when they’ll be able to return to campus, seniors speak about how their Stanford experience brought happiness and how their post-graduation plans are changing. Still hoping to return to campus soon, COVID-19 has not completely dampened their spirits. 

Emily Bishko ’20, who’s studying international relations, told The Daily she just wants the opportunity to hug her friends once more, thank all her professors and place something in the time capsule for her class, part of a collection of capsules that line Main Quad. Like others, she hopes that Stanford will keep its commitment of inviting the class of 2020 back to campus at a later date to honor them in person, but she fears many will be unable to make it back for a later celebration. 

As seniors take on new jobs and switch universities to pursue additional degrees, Bishko fears the class of 2020 may not have the opportunity to be all together again. 

“I feel like some part of my Stanford experience will be an unclosed book until I get to return to campus, to celebrate among the class of 2020, not just collect my things,” Bishko wrote in a message to The Daily.  

Karen Kurosawa ’20, an economics major, philosophy minor and former Daily staffer, said that her future plans are up in the air. Kurosawa hopes to work at the U.S. Treasury in banking regulation or at the Environmental Protection Agency, but she said the hiring process has been slow due to COVID-19. 

Despite her uncertain future plans, Kurosawa remains hopeful about returning to campus.

“Graduation has been postponed, which provides something to look forward to, a hope to reunite with my classmates in the future,” she said. 

Emily Schmidt ’20, a double English and Spanish major who has written for The Daily, is still confident about her future plans. Though COVID-19 has canceled her plans to travel to Disneyland, she looks forward to starting her one-year master’s of journalism program at Arizona State University next fall. Schmidt said she doesn’t yet know if the program will be in-person or online, but that either way she will start her graduate studies in August. 

Schmidt recalled the emotions she felt about having to leave campus early, but expressed her gratitude in having a good home life to which she could return. 

“On one hand, there were so many things I wished I could’ve done before I left,” Schmidt said. “On the other hand, I’ve spent more time with my family than in the last three years.”

All three seniors expressed how much they missed their friends. Bishko, a residential assistant (RA), has also had to cope with the loss of their dorm community. 

“I had the privilege of being an RA in Norcliffe/Adelfa this year, and knowing that I won’t be in that space with those people again gets me every time,” Bishko wrote. 

For RAs and other student staff, leaving the class of 2020 is hard, but leaving behind the community they came to know and love can be even harder. 

Ending their college careers from a desk at home has led to what Kurosawa described as a “numb feeling.” While all three hope for a return to campus, they acknowledge that a graduation ceremony alone will not make up for the quarter of lost experiences. 

For these seniors, it’s the smaller parts of Stanford that they will miss. 

“I’d love to bike down Jane Stanford Way in front of the Oval in the late afternoon as the shadows grow longer,” said Schmidt about one final experience on campus that she’d like to have. 

On the same prompt, Kurosawa responded, “I would attend a fossil fuel divestment rally,” saying that there was no better time to push Stanford to divest from oil and gas companies. 

“I would like to laugh and cry with the rest of the class of 2020 as we recognize this milestone (and take a new profile picture with graduation stoles in Main Quad)!” Bishko wrote.

COVID-19, although it physically scattered the class of 2020 far from campus, does not seem to have completely dampened their spirits. 

“I’m thankful that the class of ’20 will have this shared experience that might encourage us to continue to reach out to each other and ensure that this quarter is not ‘lost time’ and that it is still our time, just spent differently,” Kurosawa said. 

Contact Jenna Ruzekowicz at jruzekow ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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