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Four years of experiences, late nights of cramming in the library and being with friends all the time only for a pandemic to put a stop to everything.

A surprise detour for many graduating Redbirds who were looking forward to the last hoorah on-campus and commencement ceremonies. Precious last moments that were ripped away in the blink of an eye. Disheartening and all-around frustration at the situation that unfolded.

With it being finals week, many graduating students would be cramming for finals one last time at Milner, grabbing cheap meals from the dining centers, sitting on the Quad basking in the sunshine and laughter with friends, thanking professors who impacted their lives and taking everything in for one final time.

A reminiscing and heartfelt goodbye from a campus that served as a home away from home that was cut short.

Each year, graduating students look forward to the traditional commencement ceremony of walking the stage and shaking President Larry Dietz’s hand with parents screaming across Redbird Arena with happy tears streaming down their faces. The perfect moment to cap off four years of hard work, fun and friends and experiences that will last a lifetime.

Dietz is welcoming all graduating Redbirds this spring to flock back to the nest in December to participate in the traditional commencement ceremony. But the university isn’t letting spring commencement and achievements go unnoticed. Commencement will be held virtually to recognize graduating students.

Spring and summer graduates have two different ceremonies to celebrate their achievements — talk about goals.

With graduation figured out for now, where does that leave returning and new Redbirds?

In a recent message from Dietz, “ISU fully intends to welcome students back to campus for the 2020-2021 academic year. That return will arrive with numerous precautions and guidelines to protect our campus community’s health and safety, while complying with all national, state and local health and safety directions.”

Students also should prepare themselves for different case scenarios come fall with the semester potentially being online or switching back and forth between in-person and online.

Hopefully, we can all return to our home away from home and the upcoming seniors can enjoy their last hoorah on campus once again.

Summer study abroad programs were canceled and events that were to be held on campus through the end of July, are canceled. Which sadly means that incoming Redbirds won’t get to enjoy the two-day preview session where many of us figured out our way around campus, had questions answered and met close friends.

It’s easy to focus on the unknown and everything we cannot control.

But there is still so much we can control and look forward to as the situation progresses and continues to hopefully improve.

We can control how we look and handle the situation. We are all going to have our days where we want to cry and be angry about missing moments with our friends from college or the last moments and traditional commencement being put on hold.

But in the face of adversity, we have all made it this far. So, celebrate those accomplishments of graduating and making it through a weird semester online or just even making it this far. It's a proud and happy moment for each of us in our own ways.

Seniors are still graduating and leaving with friends and experiences that will last a lifetime. Campus is always open and ready to welcome them back with open arms.

Returning students can look forward to coming back on campus and standing in long lines at Starbucks and chatting with friends we haven’t seen in months.

There is something that each and everyone one of us is looking forward to. Whether it be late nights in Milner, grabbing a quick drink or bite in Uptown or seeing our favorite professors- they are all waiting for our safe return.

Life is full of ups and downs, and even though the future remains unclear, we will be alright.

Cheers to the class of 2020 and embracing the unknown.

GRACE KINNICUTT is a Features Reporter for The Vidette. She can be contacted at gkinnic@ilstu.edu Follow her on Twitter at @GKinnicutt 


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