Fall graduates gathered in Stegeman Coliseum on Dec. 13, 2019, for the Fall Commencement ceremony in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Ryan Cameron rcameron@randb.com)

The novel coronavirus has taken away any amount of normalcy left in my life.

As I try to wrap my head around it, I can’t help but break down — it’s like my senior year is being ripped away from me. On March 16, when the news that the University of Georgia would move to online classes for the rest of the semester hit my email inbox, I kept thinking to myself, “At least we have graduation. At least we have one thing left.”

That all changed when UGA canceled all graduation ceremonies on March 17. On behalf of all graduating seniors, I am begging for a rescheduled graduation.

I understand that precautions need to be taken here, and I don’t want to risk lives by having the ceremony, but we’ve had enough taken away from us. Our graduation ceremony should not be one of them. If the university reschedules the ceremony for August, enough time will likely have passed to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone who attends.

The last week of my life has been ground shakingly painful as new cases of COVID-19 keep appearing. I traveled to Lowndes County, Georgia, where, as of press time, five cases have broken out, and the Northeast Georgia Medical Center in my hometown of Braselton, Georgia has had two cases of COVID-19 confirmed as of March 16. Even Athens now has five COVID-19 cases. I can’t help feeling defeated as new cases keep popping up around me.

So, when I found out that classes had been suspended for two weeks, I was understanding.

“Sure,” I said. “Why not? That seems like the right decision.”

When I later found out that the last two months of my senior year were going to be spent inside, taking online courses, miles away from my home in Athens, I wondered, “Is this real life?”

I was aching to wake up from this nightmare and have someone say, “Gotcha!”

But it wasn’t until my graduation ceremonies were canceled that I broke. I worked so hard the last eight years of my life to graduate from college. My high school years were focused on getting into UGA, and then all three and a half years of college were dedicated to getting a degree. This is especially hard on students like me who have double majored and worked hard to get two degrees.

I realize that the university is trying to find alternative measures of honoring us, but nothing could compare to a rescheduled graduation ceremony. We, at least, deserve that.

Here’s to the memories that have painted my UGA experience, the faces that make Athens feel like home and the friends who make the stress and pressure of classes slip away.

I hope to see you again, Class of 2020. Hopefully, at a rescheduled graduation ceremony.

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