The summer before we matriculated, members of the Class of 2020 drafted a short bucket list of the things we wanted to do during our time at Princeton, posting suggestions on the official class Facebook page. On the easier side: Climb the ribosome statute in Icahn Lab. Discover the best spots to stargaze near Princeton. Meet at least three new people every day for the first three months. On the harder side: Form a math-themed rock band.
The past 3 1/2 years have gone by in the blink of an eye. Time seemed to move even faster following the University’s March 11 announcement that the majority of undergraduate students would have to move out in light of the outbreak of COVID-19. As people packed up to leave, the senior class tried to spend a few days making memories to compensate for the 2 1/2 months we’ll lose.
We spent our final days together doing different things: Some of us took “thesis photos” outside of Nassau Hall with laptops and unfinished drafts. Some of us stayed up through the night playing cards and then watching the sun rise over Poe Field. And some of us finally walked out of FitzRandolph Gate, snapping selfies while laughing and crying, closing this chapter of our time on campus.
“I think a big part of each tradition is just being able to do it with the entire class, and that’s something we’ll miss,” said Jessica Ho ’20, whom I’ve known since first grade. “The best substitute has been spending time with other people.”
As a residential college adviser, I have been asked by my advisees how I am processing everything, especially as a senior. I told them one of the hardest things about the situation was that the abrupt end meant my classmates and I likely won’t be able to process what our time here has meant until after we’ve left.
My own freshman-year ’zee group got together for one last dinner. We called our residential college adviser, and for a moment, it was almost like we still had four years ahead of us.
Bisrat Moges ’20, who was in my ’zee group, told me that he hasn’t fully processed that our time as undergraduates on campus has ended. Before I left campus, he said, “I think at some point that will hit me, after everyone has gone home and things settle down. But I think the priority for me is spending as much time [as possible] with people. When I look back, I don’t think I’ll have serious regrets about not having been able to check off certain things.”
How do you say goodbye to a place that has been home for 3 1/2 years? I don’t know if my class and I would have found an answer, even if we had been able to finish out our four years on campus. Having more time could have helped us better prepare for the inevitable. But maybe for now, after crossing off our final bucket-list items and saying our goodbyes, we might just convince ourselves that our time here was enough.