A photo featured on the Wellesley College website in May 2016 — the Science Center, embellished in red — was how I always imaged my college years would consummate. It was a Wellesley tradition for seniors to decorate academic buildings with their class color before the last day of the academic year.
Fast forward almost four years later to March 13, 2020, and I was with other biochemistry seniors, decorating the Science Center as the day began. Because of COVID-19, we were there two months earlier than planned. As early morning sunrays beamed through the glass wall, I paused to silently embrace the wonder of the moment, the place, and my community.
A month earlier, being evicted from campus just months from graduation seemed like an impossibility. Wellesley’s decision at noon on March 12 to switch to remote instruction and evacuate students within four days came as a shock, and begot endless uncertainties. How would we navigate the rest of the semester? For many international students like me, and for some domestic students, how could we return home?
Yet I cannot help but marvel at what we achieved within the following 18 hours. Immediately after the announcement, all biochemistry seniors helped a classmate clean up her lab workstation so that she could leave before the Europe border closure. Crowdfunding had been organized for students and alumnae to request and offer one another financial support. We decided to uphold all senior traditions, including a speedy decoration of the library, labs and classrooms in red and preparation of thank-you notes dedicated to each professor and staff members in the night before our last day of in-person classes.
Those few days showed me the power and resiliency of my community in times of calamity. Being part of it, I also saw myself more clearly. As our time together ended abruptly and all plans were obliterated, I realized how I used to take these people and the festivities awaiting us for granted. I felt deeply grateful for the kind, smart people I could call friends and the caring, resourceful professors and staff. At the same time, I was moved to take immediate actions — support for those who needed it and celebration for us all. No longer encumbered by fear, I enjoyed each moment with presence and felt ready to face uncertainties with newfound courage. The conclusion of my undergraduate career was nothing like my expectation, but undoubtedly a wonderful moment I will always cherish.
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