On the morning of Tuesday, March 10, I was standing in the Kent State bookstore waiting in line to pick up my cap and gown.
I was alone, feeling irritable, gloomy and slightly claustrophobic. I didn’t want to graduate.
The older I get, the more I realize how uncomfortable I am with the concept of change. Kent had been my home for the past three and a half years and it has been the period in my life where I’ve grown the most into the woman and young, aspiring journalist I aim to be.
I worked harder for this degree, more than I’ve worked for anything in my life and I’m sure most Kent State students feel the same.
As I was waiting in line, I felt the pressure to hurry to my 12:30 class. My day would consist of one final class before I prepared to anchor the 6 p.m. newscast for TV2.
I made my way across campus to Franklin Hall and sat through my Media Enterprise class. I was partially paying attention to the professor, checking emails, online shopping and briefly taking essential notes. As the professor dismissed us, I strolled out of class with my friends, not thinking twice about anything else.
I then went down to the newsroom and started writing my anchor reads for our show. COVID-19 was a big topic that day. Ohio State University officials announced the day prior that they would be extending their spring break because of this outbreak. I remember feeling surprised and confused that OSU made this drastic decision but didn’t think too much into what Kent would choose to do.
At about 2:15, as I was busy typing my reads, my friend and TV2 General Manager Mitch Meyers came out of the fishbowl in a frantic manner and said, “They cancelled in-person classes.” I responded with, “What? Seriously?” even though I knew exactly what he was talking about. We quickly found out in-class ban would go through April 13. I remember stopping what I was doing, trying to process this new normal that was thrown at us.
Whenever we have breaking news, that is when I thrive. I love the thrill and expectation it brings. This was different. The entire newsroom felt different. It was ‘go-time’ and The Stater and TV2 employees went drilling at social media, writing and preparing for this newscast.
As 6 p.m. approached, I told myself to make this a great show because it was filled with breaking news content.
I always get an adrenaline rush when we are about a minute out from show but always feel a sense of calm when our camera crew starts counting down from 10 seconds out.
30 minutes in the anchor chair always flies by. My co-anchor, Connor Steffen and I nailed the show. We both understood how important this was to air throughout the university. We also figured it would be the last time TV2 went on air until April 13.
I remember going home that night, crying. As journalists, you are supposed to not put emotion into your work, but once I was off the clock, I broke down.
I prayed a lot that week, asking God to grant us seniors the closure of our college career that we deserve. That Friday, Kent State officials announced they were moving to online coursework for the remainder of the spring semester. By the time the announcement came, I was prepared for this to happen. I understand what the higher administration is doing to keep the community safe but there are a lot of feelings running through students right now.
It is sad for us.
Kent State University is a community where students can explore who they are and what they aim to make of themselves. I have not met one person who was excited about the cancelation of in-person classes. Students love other students here at Kent State. Students have unbreakable bonds with the faculty and staff that truly cares for the education their students are receiving. We feed off each other here at Kent and we encourage one another.
I feel for my class of 2020. So many last ‘moments’ were taken from us. These are the last months where students can reflect and appreciate what Kent State has given them. When I left after my class that Tuesday, I had no thought that that lecture would be the last time I would sit in a classroom in my college career.
I often hear people say, ‘It will pass’ or ‘Life will go back to normal soon.’ But for seniors, our ‘normal’ will never be the same. Once life becomes calm again, we will not go back to the classrooms or back to our beloved extracurriculars and college friends. Our ‘normal’ will involve saying goodbye to college and starting our careers in unfamiliar cities, starting grad school at new universities or moving back to our hometowns to save up some money.
While this virus will pass, seniors will never get back the last college moments taken from us.
When I anchored the show that Tuesday night, I was calm, confident and excited. What I didn’t know, though, was that I should have been embracing that time as my last 30 minutes on TV2. I’ve been involved with TV2 ever since fall 2016. I often joke that the only position I haven’t held in TV2 is a sports reporting role, which I would fail at miserably. The time I’ve spent in the newsroom are some of my best memories of college. Some of the best people I’ve ever met I’ve met through student media. We are a family. Seniors deserve a final farewell and, more importantly, a chance to thank our classmates and professors who taught us, reassured us, encouraged us and helped us grow into the people we are today.
We often took for granted the classes and extra curriculars that sometimes felt like a pain but in a moment, was taken away.
I have my red tassel and honors cords hanging on my mirror in my bedroom. When I look at them, I feel a sense of hope. Us seniors have pushed ourselves through long nights of classwork, late nights in the library, early morning study sessions, countless projects and dozens of stories to be able to walk across that stage and get handed our diplomas. The class of 2020 is strong. We are optimistic, determined hard-workers who deserve that day where we can give ourselves a pat on the back and say, “I’ve worked hard for this and I’ve earned it.”
While I do not think they will cancel commencement, I feel for those seniors who will not be able to attend the postponed day of celebration, whenever that may be.
While this time allows us to feel sorry for ourselves, looking at the positives will never fail us. My parents always told me that if you are surrounded by people who raise you higher and keep a positive mindset, you can get through anything.
Kent State was the best 4 years of my life. The absolute best. Seniors: we must remember all the moments we were able to enjoy the past 3.75 years. Holding on to these memories and reflecting on them makes me appreciate what I was able to experience at Kent State.
We must move forward. We must stay positive. We will receive the loudest applause that a Kent State commencement ceremony has ever heard. Because, we earned it.
Erin Simonek is a TV2 anchor, reporter and Fall 2019 News Director. Contact her at email@example.com.