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How I Write and Learn

An Open Letter to the Class of 2020

By Katie, a 2020 senior

Wow! If you told me in January that we would be completing the Spring 2020 semester remotely, I would’ve thought you were joking. But, here we are. As a senior, I feel devastated. Many other people are experiencing losses large and small at this time, but all losses are legitimate. So, I thought I would write this honest blog post about how I’m coping with being a senior during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

When the COVID-19 events began during Spring Break, I reacted to the pandemic by going through the five stages of grief.

A still frame of Elle Woods from the film Legally Blonde eating chocolate in bed with the caption, "Liar!"
First, I denied that a pandemic was occurring. My family, friends, and colleagues were all discussing COVID-19 and the possibility that classes might be put online, but I wouldn’t listen. I pretended nothing was going on in the world. After receiving The Email on Wednesday, March 11, I was forced to confront the pandemic and entered the anger stage.

A still frame of Elle Woods from the film Legally Blonde in a knit cap and glasses appearing to chastise someone or express anger.
After receiving the online classes announcement, I vented to my close friend for a while. I was so mad that the university was taking away the rest of my senior year for a little virus. At the time, I was not taking the virus seriously. Once I had cooled off, I began bargaining, hoping life would change for only a short time.

A still frame of Elle Woods from the film Legally Blonde with curled, styled hair looking toward the camera with a worried expression.
During my days of bargaining, I chatted with family and friends, constantly probing them to confirm my dreams of school returning to normal operations. I reassured myself that I would be back on campus after a week of online classes. Staying home for a week was a minor life interruption that I could handle. My hopes crashed when I received my move-out notice. With all these changes at UNC, I knew online classes would be permanent, and I entered my depression stage.

A still frame of Elle Woods from the film Legally Blonde crying with mussed hair, running mascara, and a sad, pouting face with the caption, "No."
My depression stage cycled between accepting and grieving. I would grieve the loss of in-class interactions and feel better, only to remember another life change. No more roommate, lectures, walks through campus, club meetings, graduation, and so on. Even now, I miss these different aspects of campus life. But I didn’t want to stay sad forever and miss the wonderful memories that could still be made.

A still frame of Elle Woods from the film Legally Blonde in a courtroom wearing a pink dress with curled hair and high heels while she's leaning with one hand on a book on a desk and the other hand on her hip.
As days passed, I slowly accepted my new world. This acceptance didn’t happen easily. I had to change my schedule and try new at-home learning strategies. After trying to view all these changes in a positive light, life got better for me.

My coping strategies

  1. Planning every hour of my day: When I plan out every hour, I have a schedule and a routine. Schedules and routines are so soothing in these crazy times, at least for me. I’ve been using the Learning Center’s hour-by-hour worksheet, and it makes my life so much better.
  2. Taking breaks away from my “work zone”: I don’t have a desk, so I take up most of my kitchen table with school supplies. Stepping away from this area to relax prevents me from getting consumed by schoolwork.
  3. Connecting with friends through Zoom, text, and video chats: Because I can’t see friends in-person, I try to text or call everyone daily. It really helps me to know that other humans are out in the world.
  4. Walking around outside: In the words of Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy!”

A still frame of Elle Woods from the film Legally Blonde smiling widely in a prim outfit.
These coping strategies help me be productive and enjoy life during these difficult times. Now that I’ve grieved and accepted what I’ve lost, I can move forward with life. I have closure for my senior year of college. I won’t look back and regret the times I could have had over these last five weeks of class. I will look back at all the wonderful memories I had on campus and while at home.

Also, Class of 2020, just remember:

A GIF of Elle Woods from the film Legally Blonde wearing a graduation cap and gown gleefully saying, "We did it!"

Image references

Legally Blonde. Directed by Robert Luketic, performances by Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair, and Matthew Davis. MGM Distribution Co., 2001.

This blog showcases the perspectives of UNC Chapel Hill community members learning and writing online. If you want to talk to a Writing and Learning Center coach about implementing strategies described in the blog, make an appointment with a writing coach or an academic coach today. Have an idea for a blog post about how you are learning and writing remotely? Contact us here.

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