The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably had a significant impact on the education and lives of students, particularly the class of 2024. The COVID-19 pandemic has influenced the entire college experience of this group. This article will not only discuss the challenges these resilient young adults had to face, but also their emotional intelligence, the obstacles they overcame, and their immense potential to positively impact the world and future generations.
The pandemic brought about numerous challenges for these students, depriving them of a typical senior year experience that had been promised to be the best year of high school by childhood movies such as High School Musical and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. In addition to transitioning to online learning, most students had to participate in virtual graduation ceremonies in 2020.
The Executive Director of the Personal Counseling Center here at Providence College, Dr. Rosemary Mugan, stated how hard it must have been for these students who “didn’t get closure in high school in the ways that honor the work, time, and relationships.” Mugan added that students had to smoothly “pivot to a new environment, learning how to foster academic growth, social connections, and overall general health and wellness at a time when we were also learning a new way of being at PC.” After a summer surrounded by masks and hand sanitizer, many brave students embarked onto this altered on-campus learning environment.
That fall of 2020, emails from Dean Sears and PC faculty pleaded with students to form “pods.” A pod is a core group of friends who agree to limit their in-person social activities to a select few. Seems like a great way to expand a social network (sarcasm intended)! Along with limitations on friends also came restrictions on extracurricular activities. In September 2020, freshmen ate Ray Dining Hall delivery dinners in their bedrooms, Concannon Fitness Center was closed, and they could not enter other residence halls. The College did its best at the time to provide socially distanced in-person events, but there was no way to get involved in intramurals or club sports. Their physical activity was at an all-time low. As Aristotle famously said, humans are social animals by nature. After spending a year in confinement, there was a lot of pent-up desire for socialization.
The class of 2024 became sophomores. Most restrictions were lifted and students were finally able to enjoy a more normal college experience. With normalcy on the horizon came energy, appreciation, excitement, and gratitude. Experiencing a first post- pandemic “golf party,” a Black and White Ball, a winning streak for Friars basketball, and improved food quality at Ray Dining Hall, things were starting to look up. As a psychology major and member of the class of 2024, Courtney Foster said, “I could see my friends’ faces in class for the first time in class again, I was so excited for it to feel normal. Lots of gratitude came with that.”
Following the pandemic, the class of 2024 was given the chance to go abroad during their junior year. Despite the economic challenges, a significant number of students took advantage of the opportunity, with over 50 percent of the class opting to travel. This desire to explore new places was understandable after being confined for the past couple of years. However, since half of the class went abroad in the fall and the other half in the spring, they didn’t get to interact with all of their peers. Senior year is very significant for the class of 2024, as it marks the last time they will be together.
These students, now 21 and 22 years old, have undergone significant transformations over the past four years. Dr. Mugan kindly stated that already she has “seen members of [this] class be solid leaders in opportunities like Orientation Programming this August and in many other club and organization experiences in order to provide an authentic welcome with opportunities for connection to our new students that I know, as an alumnus myself, I am very proud of.” The fact that students are already going above and beyond to orchestrate the events they never had is a testament to their strength and appreciation for our community. Class of 2024 President Ava Baron says, “I definitely think our class has become more grateful and strong because of our experiences with the pandemic.”
And this class has done just that, embrace gratitude. Especially for their senior year, including fun social life on Eaton Street, in-person academic vigor in the classroom, vibrant theater and arts departments, fierce athletics, inclusive clubs, and their first in-person graduation ceremony ahead of them.