On the afternoon of March 11th, while on spring break with all of my Pitt friends, a collective cell phone ‘ding’ rang out. I opened the email that appeared on my screen, and saw it was from Chancellor Gallagher addressing what action Pitt is taking against Covid-19. For the remainder of the semester, there will be no more in-person classes, no events, and no graduation. Receiving news like this while surrounded by my closest college friends on a beautiful day in the middle of our last spring break was surreal to say the least.
As seniors, we are now left with a sense of anxiety, fear and uncertainty as our semester was cut short and future plans cancelled. Spring semester for seniors is a time for celebrations, reflections and bittersweet goodbyes before launching into the ‘real’ world. We lost our chance to create our final memories: our “lasts.”
What’s the worst part? When I ask my friends, they agree. It’s the sense of uncertainty about their future and financial security. Many students with jobs on campus or in any number of establishments around the city, swiftly lost their jobs and that income. Now, as we look to launch careers, job searching and interviewing are now completely called into question. In short, we are worried about our prospects with the economy falling into potentially the worst crisis since the Great Depression.
A couple weeks ago, PNC postponed my start date for their Development Program from June until August. I feel fortunate to still have the position at all, given the current economic situation. And now, in the meantime, they’ve called upon me to help process the overwhelming requests for small business loans due to the crisis. We all know the critical role small business owners play in the economy, yet they only have enough cash to stay solvent for 27 days. Now, I’m excited to contribute by helping small business owners survive and pay their employees during this time. It seems that the best economy and job market in 50 years have become the ‘good old days’ and now the class of 2020 faces uncertainty in the days ahead.
With all of these stressors hanging over our heads, we are left with this strange reality of our final classes operating entirely online. No more walking into Posvar and wondering which escalator is out of service that day, no more chatting with friends and professors after class, and no more searching for an open table in Hillman to study until ridiculous hours of the night. In a blink of an eye, coronavirus stole our final semester. There were so many “lasts” we didn’t know were our “lasts,” and so many “lasts” we will never get to experience.
Everything we have been tirelessly working towards is now altered or rescinded: finishing our requirements, earning our degree, and walking across that stage in the Pete in front of our family and friends to finally seal the deal. As hard as this is for each of us, we know that we are taking part in a larger collective act to flatten the curve of Covid-19 and protect the vulnerable members of our beloved communities.
I am confident that once the virus clears from the world, and it is safe to return, the Pitt senior class of 2020 will get their day to finally celebrate, and we will have a greater appreciation for our experiences.
We are forever Panthers and will always be hailing to Pitt!
Andie Spatig, Pitt Class of 2020