I’ve been staring down what I never thought would actually happen. It took two different colleges, a couple different majors, and an extra semester, but it looks almost certain that this will be the semester where I graduate. It should be a time for celebration and relaxation, but 2020 isn’t exactly the year for those two things. In the realm of first world problems, not being able to enjoy your final semester of college due to the coronavirus is pretty far up there, but make no mistake: it still sucks. The last semester of college is an almost mythical time, hotly anticipated by everyone who ever almost failed class or nearly flunked out or felt like the stress was going to get the best of them. Common knowledge (and experience) says that the final semester is where the classes don’t matter and the fun doesn’t stop. Well, that would be the case most semesters.
A New Look
So what do you do? How can you make the most out of this depressingly distant final semester? It’s still early, but I’ve found a few ways that have helped me avoid thinking about what I can’t do this semester, and to focus instead on what I can do to celebrate this closing chapter in my life. Here’s how to make the most of your last semester of college during COVID-19 in four easy steps.
Most of the people in my apartment building have already failed this, and I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty upsetting to see. Yeah, it’s great to be back at college. Everyone feels that. It’s great to be around friends and bars and unrestricted alcohol and summer vibes. But last time I checked, we haven’t found any kind of cure, or even deterrent, for COVID-19 yet. So why are you having 30 people stuffed into your apartment singing along to Pop Smoke, Becky? Why haven’t you worn a mask since you got back to College Park, Becky? You know what, fuck you Becky. Don’t be a Becky.
Have a party, but have it be low key. Have it be relatively safe. It seems beyond the realm of possibility to ask college kids to go with all the safety restrictions outlined by the CDC, and universities are doing absolutely nothing to keep those kids away for fear of losing even a few precious dollars, so it seems like it’s only a matter of time before the breakouts start popping up and we all get sent back home again. And you know who’s to blame? Yup, definitely Becky.
Until that happens, enjoy being around your friends again. If this is your last semester, make sure you spend as much time with them as possible. Just like high school, once you leave college, it’s almost impossible to have the same kind of relationship with people who you once saw everyday but now have to make a significant effort just to catch up with. We’ve been separated through quarantine for long enough, so make sure you give them the love and attention that might seem overboard. It won’t seem overboard when you’re gone.
Revisit your old favorite places
Usually I try to live by the adage “Don’t Look Back”. Nostalgia can be dangerous, and wistful remembrances can often lead to a state of sadness upon the realization that what once was will, in all likelihood, never be again. Well, that’s great for depressed poets and overdramatic goths, but, c’mon, lighten up a little.
Taking a stroll back through campus for the first time in months gave me a magical memory tour for the ages: the dorm room where I first got thrown into the throws of having to make new friends, the dining hall where I first bonded with those friends who would become my roommates for years to come, the just-off campus apartment where I lived illegally and had to avoid the RA for fear of being found out. Everybody has those spots where wondrous, often spontaneous events happened that you’ll remember for a long time. Maybe it’s the secret spot behind your dorm where you got high for the first time. Maybe it’s the back hallway where you cried when you failed your first ever exam. Maybe it’s the campus mall where you played frisbee with some friends-of-friends and met your future significant other.
These places are potent, and they’ll only dull as time passes. You can always come back when you’re older, but the memories will fade as new memories are made in its place. Sometimes the spot where your life changed will look completely different, or maybe it won’t even be there anymore. Cherish what may not even seem like the distant past now. Embrace the warmth that comes from remembering these places and these moments. Make a day of it. Just take a walk and see what kind of evocations come up.
Take it from your resident armchair therapist, me: a positive mindset will take you a long way. It will be all too easy to be caught up in the things that aren’t possible anymore, or the restrictions that limit the fun you were planning on having. There’s a chance that your favorite bar isn’t taking in that many people anymore, meaning happy hours and late night fish bowls are strictly in the past. Your favorite spot in the library is no longer occupied, not by you, not by anybody. This all sucks, but that’s not enough to keep an optimistic person like you down is it? I didn’t think so!
Really it’s all how you take it. You can easily get mad at restrictions, but we’ve had months of quarantine to get that off our chests. Now that we’re back, don’t we owe it to ourselves to make the most of what we can still do? Every single experience you have for the next four months will be shaped by how you feel going into it, so make the effort to keep your head up, no matter how bitter you might be.
Spread the Joy
Equally as important is to not let anyone else’s negativity get you down. It’s only natural that your friends and fellow college students are going to get frustrated by the current state of affairs. I mean, look at… everything. Nobody’s really all that happy right now. Who knows, maybe it will be up to you to turn another down night into the one that everyone remembers. Get creative with your restrictions. You never know who is going to be affected by it. Chances are good that your positivity will rub off on others as well. After all, it’s your last semester, and you’re going to make the most of it.