2020 Graduates One Year Later
Graduating at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the class of 2020 faced an unexpected end to their time at Lehigh. What was originally two weeks at home turned into the second half of their senior year behind a screen. Celebrating the end to their college careers with a short virtual commencement ceremony, Lehigh’s class of 2020 was entering a world of uncertainty. One year later, 2020 graduates reflect on their experiences as they prepare to attend in-person graduation on May 22.
Originally from Los Angeles, Nic Thomson is currently living in Washington, D.C., working as a communications strategist for the Independent Community Bankers of America, a lobbying firm for community banks.
Thomson said while the past year hasn’t been easy, he said he has had it easier than most. Finishing college in his childhood bedroom was not what he expected, but he said he was grateful to be home with his loved ones and stayed healthy.
Along with the end of college, the start of his career has also been consumed by COVID-19 through remote work.
“To some extent, I’ve definitely felt a little bit disconnected. I haven’t actually met any of my co-workers in person. I’ve been working with them for almost a year and I’ve literally never met them except through a screen,” Thomson said.
Luckily, he said he has been able to establish a close pod in his new home and have some semblance of a social life, he said.
Last May, when all of Lehigh was remote and campus almost empty, seniors were only able to have a virtual commencement. This year they will be allowed to have an in-person ceremony.
“I kind of feel a little bit indifferent about it,” Thomson said.“I am going back to Lehigh for graduation but it’s not the same. My family isn’t coming out…I’m not a college student anymore and I haven’t been for a year.”
Thomson said he received more emails about Lehigh’s Day of Giving, an alumni donation event, than the rescheduling of commencement, which made him re-evaluate what he thought Lehigh’s priorities were.
“I feel like I’m just another email in their list of people to email asking for money, rather than someone who was a student who spent four years there,” Thomson said.
Nevertheless, Thomson said he is excited to return to Lehigh and graduate with his 2020 classmates, as well as see his friends in the class of 2021.
Jess Foy is living in Philadelphia and currently working at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
She described the last year for her as a rollercoaster.
“I am bad at change in general so I knew graduating college was going to be hard for me… to have the rug ripped out from under that really shocked me,” Foy said. “I thought I had more time.”
She said there have been some really high moments in the past year, like getting to move to a new city in her first adult apartment, but said there have been some lows, like the difficulty of meeting new people in a new city during a time when social life is so limited.
“I was kind of in a funk for a while, but since the start of 2021 I’ve started to hit my stride in adult living,” Foy said.
Foy said she is looking forward to returning to Lehigh for graduation and getting to say bye to those she couldn’t before.
“To graduate from college is a big moment,” she said. “It has been a whole year since it happened. It doesn’t have the same momentous feeling, but at the same time I am happy to have the opportunity to embrace graduation.”
At Lehigh, Foy was the president of her sorority, an orientation leader and a Gryphon.
She said these different experiences helped develop important life skills such as mediation, working with others and being part of a team. She said being a Gryphon also helped to affirm her goal to be a therapist after college.
“When I collectively look at my four years at Lehigh, I think I made a lot of really good choices that fulfilled me and have helped me think about what I want to do post grad that will give me that same fulfillment,” Foy said.
Evan Choy is currently working as an advisory analyst at Deloitte and has been living back home in Monmouth County, New Jersey, since Lehigh shut down in March. He is planning on moving to New York City in August.
The starting date for his job had been pushed back a month due to COVID-19 and in this time he started working a part-time job to pay off loans and make extra money.
“That was supposed to be the summer where I was enjoying the last few moments of not having real responsibilities,” Choy said.
Choy was a member of Marching 97 in his time at Lehigh and served at the regional level for Kappa Kappa Psi, the honorary band fraternity.
He said he was looking forward to the regional conference after spring break that ended up getting canceled.
“I’m a people person and in-person interaction, without it, was kind of tough,” Choy said. “It’s easy to disconnect and not be there, and it kind of took an emotional and mental toll on me. It was hard to focus and be in the moment….I’m very goal driven, but I was kind of wandering. I felt lost.”
Even with this, he said there were a lot of good memories to look back on from senior fall and the first half of senior spring.
“Senior spring is usually that time where you get to spend with your class one last time,” Choy said. “I think everyone takes this lesson to heart—not to take that time for granted.”
He said it was tough to let go of a place where he spent a great 3.5 years. Thinking about his time at Lehigh, Choy said he values the connections he was able to make with alums and peers, which have all helped pull him forward and navigate the virtual world.
Choy said he is happy to be able to return to Lehigh for graduation, although he knows many of his classmates will not be able to attend.
“The times we’ve lost aren’t going to come back—there’s no way of recreating it. At the same time, there’s a bright future ahead,” he said.
Emma Stein is working remotely as a technology consultant at PwC from her apartment in New York City. Her post-grad plans only changed slightly, she said.
She lived at home with her parents from March to October, rather than moving to New York right after graduation.
“Looking back now, I am still sad that my college career ended so abruptly,” Stein said. “I think it was hard to gain closure at the time knowing that there was no significant moment or event to say goodbye. There was no opportunity to look back on what I had accomplished and who I accomplished it with.”
Stein said she is excited to be able to come back to Lehigh for in-person graduation and get back the opportunity for a real graduation.
She said it is bittersweet, but is happy to have the chance to celebrate and be at Lehigh again.
“My past year has been at times normal, at times not normal at all,” Stein said. “I think it has been a nice time to reflect, but also falling at such a pivotal time in my life, has made my transition to post-grad and my career even more impactful.”
Lindsey Andreana is working as an information technology project manager at E-TRADE and is living in New York City. She received a job offer before COVID-19 hit, so she said her plans did not change drastically.
She had been aiming to move out of her parents house the summer following graduation but ended up moving into the city this past April instead. Andreana said she has enjoyed being in New York City.
“It has been nice to see the city starting to come back to life,” she said.
Andreana said she is still working remotely and will be for the foreseeable future. In the past year, she said a lot of her work has been done in her childhood bedroom.
“(It is) so weird working and being an adult in the room where I used to hang my One Direction posters,” she said.
She said she was initially disappointed she could not say goodbye to some professors and friends that she was not necessarily close with, but loved spending time with.
“My last college class ended with a ‘Leave meeting’ button,” Andreanna said. “It felt very unfinished. People would congratulate me over the summer and I literally asked ‘For what?’ It didn’t feel real that I graduated and finished some of the best four years of my life. Now, the initial sting has subsided and I am looking forward to walking in graduation at the end of May and getting to close this chapter of my life.”