Ohio State seniors grapple with an abrupt end to their college careers due to COVID-19. Credit: Hannah Herner | Former Arts & Life Editor

The class of 2020 expected to spend its last few weeks at Ohio State saying farewell to friends, teachers and the university, scrambling to find jobs and tying up loose ends as it prepared to stand arm in arm singing “Carmen Ohio” in Ohio Stadium in May and ending its time as Buckeyes in the traditional manner. 

But then, COVID-19 happened. 

The university announced in a universitywide email Thursday that it would suspend all in-person classes until the end of the semester, requiring students to move out of residence halls by Sunday and ceasing campus activities until April 20 to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Tuesday, the university announced commencement would be postponed. 

Some of those ending their time at Ohio State are disappointed and confused, but understanding. 

“It sucks,” Sophie Wong, a fourth-year in strategic communication and French, said. “Obviously the campus shut for the health and safety of the entire community. I respect that so much, but you just have to move on.”

Wong said she and her roommates planned to cross a few remaining things off their bucket lists before graduating, such as eating in a dining hall for the last time and visiting places they haven’t been in a while, but those plans have been canceled. 

Despite the cancellations, Wong said she remains optimistic.

“I won’t lie, it surprisingly made me kind of emotional when I was first coming to terms with it,” Wong said. “But you know, it is what it is, and there’s so many of us in the same boat. You’re just going to have to make the best of what the situation is and know that it is for a good reason.”

Pareesa Nabi, a fifth-year in food engineering, said she is disappointed in missing traditional senior experiences, but is also disappointed the travel bans enacted to prevent the spread of the virus will delay the installation of a water treatment facility in Tanzania, an East African country where she is working for her capstone project. 

“This year was the beginning of the implementation of building these tanks and bringing the water from the river up,” Nabi said. “Unfortunately, we’re not gonna be able to start for a while, so this community is missing out on clean water for longer than we anticipated.”

Nabi said the suspension of student organizations and activities was also disappointing. 

Nabi is an engineering ambassador and said she had tours of the college scheduled and a planned banquet that will no longer occur. She is also co-president of Urdu Club, a student organization that hosts events that incorporate Urdu, a language spoken in many South Asian countries, and had to cancel a scheduled poetry slam because of students leaving to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Although it sucks having to send all of these students back and be able to have that face-to-face interaction, I think this was something necessary that needed to happen,” Nabi said. “The steps that the school took and the governor took and all that stuff is something that I’m glad is in place. Do I like it? No. Do I think it’s necessary? Yes.”

Nabi and Wong share disappointment and understanding about the end of their time at Ohio State, and are glad the university decided to postpone instead of cancel commencement.

University President Michael V. Drake announced in a universitywide email Tuesday that the 2020 Spring Commencement Ceremony, scheduled for May 3, would be postponed to a yet-to-be-determined date. 

“Our preference is to reschedule for later this spring but it is premature to select a new date at this time,” Drake said. “We will continue to evaluate information as we receive it and communicate a decision later this month.”

The decision to postpone commencement instead of cancelling was a relief to Nabi, who is looking forward to being able to have her parents and sisters at commencement — her parents immigrated to the United States from India and Pakistan, and she is the first of their children to graduate from college in the country. 

“It’s nice to know that it wasn’t canceled because initially that’s what everyone was thinking,” Nabi said. “The fact you know it’s still going to happen and we’re still going to be able to take a part of it, at least that’s something that I won’t miss on, maybe it’s a little bit delayed but I still have the chance to be at commencement.”

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