Friday, February 3, 2023

'A different experience': MSU seniors reflect on 'unconventional' last 4 years

While it may have started out normal, this year's seniors' time at MSU was quickly interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

January 25, 2023
<p>Photo illustration, photos courtesy of Chloe Trofatter and Zach Crawford.</p>

Photo illustration, photos courtesy of Chloe Trofatter and Zach Crawford.

Most college seniors take their last semester as a chance for reflection; one last opportunity to look back at their last four years and remember all that they have done. But MSU’s current senior class has had an unconventional college experience.

They haven’t had four full years of going to sporting events, packing into lecture halls and going out on the weekends. While it may have started out that way, their time at MSU was quickly interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professional and public writing and Japanese senior Logan Bry moved into Holmes Hall in fall 2019, 10 days before classes started.

"And those 10 days I look back on really fondly … It was very cool to have that pseudo independence," Bry said.

Bry’s experience is common among other seniors interviewed by The State News: tasting independence for the first time and absolutely loving it.

Bry said this was a time of personal growth for him. He was starting to become less introverted and take advantage of every opportunity that was presented to him, he said. 

“I sucked at volleyball, but I wanted to play volleyball, so I created an IM team and met a bunch of people through that,” Bry said. “And then just forming my own friend group and reaching out to different people, taking on a research job and going to different random sporting events, even if I didn't know the sport, just that kind of thing.”

Shortly after students returned from their spring break in 2020, things started to change.

Public policy senior Zach Crawford said he remembers the day the university decided to move classes online. He was sitting on the second floor of Wells Hall when he got the MSUPD text alert stating that there was a message from President Stanley.

Crawford said he was shocked at how immediate the announcement was. He still had a 10:20 a.m. class that day, but the professor let them leave early because he understood no one would remember the lesson.

“From there, I just went back to my dorm room and just kind of sat in there,” Crawford said. “I was like, 'What do I do now?'”

Like most other MSU students, he ended up moving home for the rest of the spring semester. Both Crawford and Bry returned to campus next fall to live in apartments, even though MSU was completely online.

“It was just completely dead,” Bry said. “It was like the university was teeming with life before, and anywhere you'd go there were too many people, if anything. Now the streets were just empty and barren, there were very few people going anywhere. I mean, it was just very sad.”

The trajectory Bry was on in terms of becoming more extroverted and more confident in himself was shattered, he said. He had been excited about his newfound confidence prior to the pandemic, but the lack of social interactions caused that to fade away. 

Bry said that he's slowing regaining that confidence, but he still feels that the COVID-19 pandemic stunted a lot of the personal growth he was excited for.

Psychology senior Shelby King said she and four of her friends still lived in a house on campus that year, which had its benefits and drawbacks. She said that while she was fine with having online school, she still wishes she could’ve lived in that house when campus life looked a bit more normal.

“I think I was okay with (being online), just because it was more for everyone's safety, it felt like the better choice for university,” King said. “Especially because I feel like a lot of times, they focus on, like, money first.”

Crawford said that going into his final semester at MSU, it’s hard not to think of the “what ifs." In his case, would he still be in the business college instead of public policy? Would he still have joined the same organizations later on? Would he have met different people had he lived on campus another year?

Despite having these questions, Bry said he learned to be more flexible and take care of himself from the unconventional experience.

“It's weird, I'm trying to find like the balance between, I lost out on a semester, or I got a different experience that wasn't great, but it also wasn't horrible either,” Crawford said. “It was just kind of ‘meh’.”

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Crawford said that during his final semester, he is trying to find a balance between figuring out what his next step will be and still trying to soak up every last experience.

King said she is focused on prioritizing her schoolwork in the hopes of finishing strong.

“(I) hold myself to a higher standard so that I can have my degree so I can use it to find a bigger, big girl job,” King said.

Bry said he is trying to use this semester as one last opportunity to go out and do the things that he missed out on.

“I think right now it's more of a sense of just trying to enjoy the time that I have left instead of worrying so much about the future, because it just doesn't do me any good,” Bry said. “You only have so much time to spend with the people that you're around."

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