How to save your senior year during social distancing and online learning

From the moment freshmen step foot onto campus for the first time, they’re told to make the most of their experience and time at college. With loved ones promising that their time in college will fly by before they know it and that these times will be “some of the best of your life,” it feels to many that senior year always feels like an opportunity for students to bring their experience full circle.

The last few weeks for a senior typically means many things: it’s filled with teary-eyed goodbyes, senior portraits, a final walk on campus or attending luncheons or other activities geared towards their graduating class that all leads up to that final graduation ceremony. These events encompass all of your work as a whole. Typically. 

This year is unlike any other. According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, many spring graduation ceremonies in Georgia have been canceled or postponed amid coronavirus concerns. At this time, Mercer has yet to make a decision about the commencement ceremonies, leaving the future of Class of 2020’s graduation festivities uncertain for the time being. 

But when a pandemic unexpectedly hits, and many students are having to transition from in-person classes to continue their curriculums online for the remainder of the spring semester, how are Mercer students coping with this change? Here are some ways to make the most out of your last moments as a senior in college during a quarantine. 

Mercer senior, Jackson Suggs, said COVID-19 made him face moving out and saying goodbye to Mercer sooner than he initially thought. The History major said he thought he had more time.

“I mean it sucks,” Suggs said. “It feels like we kinda got (duped), we all knew it was going to end, but not this quickly. We’re having to come to terms now with something that we weren’t supposed to have to grapple with for another month and a half.”

The worst part of the uncertainty, he said, was being unable to say goodbye to his friends for the last time.

“I’ve got friends who I didn’t get to see before they left, who I’m not sure when or if I’ll see them again. It’s well beyond anyone’s control, but it doesn’t mean it feels fair to us,” he said. 

Luckily, many of Sugg’s friends opted to stay on campus until the announcement that the transition to online classes would continue until the end of the semester. Going forward, he plans to use online services to keep in touch as he had done in previous summers. 

“I imagine it will be some mixture of gaming and Discord, which helped us keep in touch over the summer most year’s summers so I’m sure it’ll help now,” he said. 

So, for the Class of 2020, who had to prematurely say goodbye to their friends and the campus they called home, how do you try to collect the last of your experiences and move them online? 

1. Post it

“The internet is forever” — that’s the phrase that’s been edged into all of our minds since the beginning of time. To some, this can feel daunting, but when it comes to maintaining connections with your peers in a time like this, it’s comforting to have social media at our disposal. Take this time to go back through the years and look back at your old memories. Find the move in pictures, the pictures of your very first cubby (ahem, I mean freshman dorm), or other general fond memories and memorialize them. Make a collage on social media, an album on Facebook or even a video on TikTok or Youtube to share with friends and family of the time you had as a Mercer Bear. 

2. Write it

Write a thank-you note to all the professors or faculty members who have made an impact on your time here at Mercer. Did you make friends with the attendant at the POD? Did you develop a rapport with your favorite Caf employee? Thank them! Now, more than anything, people need closeness, positivity and validation. 

3. Remember it

Just because your time at university is coming to an end doesn’t mean that your memories have to die with it. Think back — think back to any and every notable moment you’ve had at Mercer. Write about your highs, your lows, your mistakes, embarrassments, your favorite times with your friends or situations you’ve learned from. 

4. Bond 

With more and more bears heading home early this semester due to COVID-19, it seems as though the main Macon campus has become pretty bare (ba-dum-tss!). Use this newly found time to spend time with your family. As our time as Mercer students approaches an end and we prepare to enter the workforce, some of us may be offered opportunities across state lines. Found a new recipe? Try cooking it for them (given that the necessary ingredients weren’t already raided from your nearby grocery stores). 

Miss your college friends and roommates? Don’t worry, they miss you too. Luckily, in the digital era, there are ample ways to connect with them like never before. Platforms like HouseParty or Zoom make it possible to video chat groups of friends at once — the best part? You can see all of their beautiful faces while social distancing! For those of you missing your movie nights, we’ve got you covered. Video-sharing applications like Kast have made it possible to screen share, chat, and video chat with loved ones while streaming your favorite videos, TV shows, or movies. Netflix also offers a group streaming feature called Netflix Party which allows users to synchronize video playback and chat with their loved ones while watching their favorite shows or movies.

5. Recharge

Think back long and hard. When was the last time you had this much time to yourself to breathe and become one with yourself? When will you get a chance to reset again? Take this time to relax, breathe, and recharge. After spending hours working on graduate school applications or applying to hundreds on hundreds of post-graduation work, all while working on a full course load of classes or working a part-time job to make ends meet, you deserve a break. Soon enough, you’ll be working a full-time job and wishing you took time on your