I’m writing this with a heavy heart. I didn’t realize how important it was to cherish every moment in college until my senior year was cut in half. Due to the severity of the coronavirus, I’ll no longer get to walk across the stage and receive my diploma I worked so hard to attain. I’ll no longer get to say goodbye to the professors who encouraged me, supported me and challenged me. I’ll no longer get to say goodbye to my classmates, coworkers and supervisors.

It’s disappointing, to put it lightly, when you’ve spent years leading up to this one moment. I know I’m not the only one who had already scheduled their graduation photos, started looking for a dress and began planning celebrations with friends and families.

Experiences I thought I would treasure for the rest of my life were unexpectedly taken away from me.

It’s saddening, yes, but it’s not the end of the world. After reflecting on my past two years at the University of North Florida, I wouldn’t trade the experiences I had, memories I made and lessons I learned for just a few more weeks. We may have lost what little time we have left, but what’s already happened can’t be taken away from us.

We are allowed to be sad. We are allowed to be mad (I know I’m definitely both at the moment). Don’t feel bad about feeling. But at the same time, remember that none of this changes the fact that we’re still graduating. Our hard work is paying off. Our accomplishments feel lessened because they won’t be celebrated in such a public way, but they don’t need to be. Have your closest friends and family over for a small, intimate graduation in your living room—it will probably be three times as special and memorable.

This semester took a turn none of us were expecting, but it’s up to us to make it count. Don’t look back at this last semester of your college career with regret, wishing things had been different. Look back at this semester and remember how you were able to change something so devastating and heartbreaking into a memorable, special and sweet semester.

Don’t give up yet. Give these last few weeks everything you have left. Get good grades and study hard. Make new memories, laugh with your friends, celebrate everything (even if it’s just that you changed out of sweats into jeans for the first time in five days). With your newfound free time, pick up a hobby, start a side hustle or catch up on all the sleep you’ve lost.

Regardless of how you decide to spend the last moments of your senior year, this won’t change: you have accomplished great things, pushed yourself to limits you didn’t know were possible and made your parents, professors and peers so proud.

And you should be proud of yourself, too.

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