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College Life in the Pandemic's New Normal: Walking in a Virtual Graduation

Photo of the top of Tanisha Thomas' mortar board
Tanisha Thomas walks, virtually, for her graduation.

Ohio college students just finished a spring semester that was anything but normal. Schools stopped in-person classes in March because of the pandemic. For those like Kent State University senior Tanisha Thomas, that meant going home to Columbus and finishing the semester remotely. 

Thomas, who was also an intern at WKSU, continued to work virtually as a member of the news department, right up until her graduation a week ago.  She kept track of her final days as a Kent State University student in this audio diary.

Despite these times being probably one of the hardest of my lifetime, quarantine has taught me a lot—I didn’t take advantage of my time well. I let school and work take up the time I could’ve spent learning new things or taking care of myself.

My thoughts bombard me everyday now that I am mostly alone if I am not hanging out with my family. With nothing to distract me, it has become an unhealthy relationship being in my head all day, so every week I have tried to do things to occupy myself or instill my mind with more positive thoughts.

I have recently picked up new hobbies. With the time I have now, I am able to learn how to knit! It has been a skill I have wanted to learn for years, but I never took the time to do it. One day, I browsed on Etsy to buy supplies, and I am so happy I did. I haven’t made anything yet, but mindlessly learning stitch patterns has brought me peace. I think about nothing except if I am going to loop the yarn right or create yet again another dropped stitch.

photo of Tanisha Thomas and her family
Tanisha Thomas and her family at home on virtual graduation day.

I also don’t let the coronavirus cancel social interactions because we have all this great technology to help us communicate with each other. I have always been more of a talking-on-the-phone girl, and I have strived to do that with many friends. I even went out of my way to host a game night because I missed my friends. To my suprise, eight people showed up to the Google Hangouts session, and we had a blast. It brought back a normalcy in my life I have been craving since moving back home.

I refuse to let quarantine steal my joy and hope because there are still ways I can do all of those things without endangering others or myself.

I even caved and bought makeup to learn how to naturally enhance my beauty. As a result, I have been dressing up at least once or twice a week to feel normal again because being in pajamas everyday weighs down my mood sometimes. By dressing up, I remind myself that this is temporary, and I don’t have to dwell on what I am missing out on because of quarantine.

The craziest thing I realized during this difficult time, is the wonders that happen when you take time to take care of yourself. My hair is in the healthiest state I think I have seen because I took time to learn what hair products my hair likes and what protective styles give me the best hair days. It may seem small, but incorporating more time for myself has been healing.

photo of Tanisha Thomas
Tanisha Thomas shows off her mortar board at her virtual graduation.

Many things have been taken away from me during this difficult time: graduation, seeing my friends and extended family, having a graduation party, going out in public without fearing for my life and more.

I refuse to let quarantine steal my joy and hope because there are still ways I can do all of those things without endangering others or myself, and being creative has helped me do that.

That’s Tanisha Thomas, now a graduate of Kent State University’s journalism program.