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Pandemic spoils seniors’ chance to say goodbye to campus, each other

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s seniors didn’t get the goodbye they may have wanted. Under these unprecedented circumstances, The Miami Hurricane decided to put together a special project to congratulate the graduating seniors of the class of 2020. This includes a look back at the past four years, as well as reflections from seniors on their time at UM.

Pandemic spoils seniors’ chance to say goodbye to campus, each other

By Jaime Harn, Senior Editor

Nimesh Nagururu was looking forward to returning to the University of Miami after spring break to check the last few items off of his college bucket list.

He was excited to finally take a picture by the iconic “U” statue and was ready to have his first drink at the on-campus pub, the Rathskeller, something he’s been waiting to do since he turned 21 in December.

But everything changed when the COVID-19 pandemic spread, and UM moved all its classes online.

“I really wanted to spend senior year to explore Miami, to explore new interests, to work on myself,” said Nagururu, a biomedical engineering major. “I didn't get to say goodbye to so many people.”

Many of UM’s 2,175 graduating seniors expressed similar sentiments.

Veronica Angulo— a legal studies, marketing and human resources major from Cartagena, Colombia— was on vacation with her friends when she received news of the transition to online classes. But it took awhile for reality to set in.

“The first reaction was definitely confusion, not understanding what was happening,” Angulo said. “As a senior, you always expect your last semester to be full of emotions. I was so thrilled to finally have my degree, and it all vanished overnight, and it hurt.”

Justin Stevens, a resident assistant in Hecht Residential College, described the situation as devastating, depressing and scary. He left his dorm in Miami for his home state of New Jersey, expecting to be gone only for a few days. Now, Stevens— who only packed about two sets of clothes, a travel toothbrush, a Nintendo Switch, his phone and his laptop— is unsure of when he will return to campus.

“I still have my car down in Miami, all my clothes, passport. Everything is in Miami,” said Stevens, a broadcast journalism and media management major. “It has been really challenging with how sudden everything has been.”

Despite the unexpected end to their undergraduate career, many seniors said they are still grateful for the time they did have at the university and the people they met.

Valerie Ferrante, a motion pictures major in the School of Communication Honors Program, said her involvement in various student organizations made her four years at UM unforgettable.

“I feel like I really found a family in all the different organizations that I was a part of,” Ferrante said. “It's nice that I had something I loved so much.”

On campus, Ferrante was the executive producer of UMTV’s Sports Desk and was involved in Delta Kappa Alpha, the professional cinematic arts fraternity, as well as the Alpha Delta Pi sorority.

“Sports Desk has had the biggest influence on me because that show has taught me everything I know about working in television,” Ferrante said. “It showed me how to be a leader in different aspects, and it gave me a whole family of people that keeps growing.”

During his time at the university, Nagururu was also involved in multiple student organizations, which shaped his college experience. He was a part of the Council of International Students and Organizations, “UMiami Scientifica Magazine,” the Ethics Society and the Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee.

“I was able to find interests that I thought were very unique,” Nagururu said. “It really helped me grow as a person, which has been an amazing experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Gabby Rosenbloom said she will miss the people, especially the ones she met during her time in “Distraction Magazine” and the Theatre Action Group.

“The people I met at that school are forever friends,” said Rosenbloom, a theater arts and public relations major. “I’ve definitely collected people from all corners. I knew some people going in, but the people that I chose and who chose me are my everything.”

Overall, students said UM and college in general provided them with an experience that they will never forget.

“I am going to miss Sebastian. I am going to miss the spirit,” Angulo said. “I am going to miss people getting excited about tailgating and burning the boat on Homecoming, the farmers’ market, my professors, my friends, my UM family.”

Katie Kean, an economics and political science major, said her freedom is what she will miss most.

“I don’t think there will ever be a time in my life where I can be as carefree, busy and live with my eight best friends again,” Kean said. “You can choose to stay out until 5 a.m. to see a DJ at a club and still make your 8 a.m. lecture.”

So, what’s next for these graduating seniors? While some members of the Class of 2020 have solidified their plans after graduation, others are still unclear about their future due to the on-going pandemic.

Unpredictability leaves future graduates uncertain about their plans

Kean was in the recruitment process for three potential jobs when suddenly everything changed because of COVID-19.

“Unfortunately, all three have put things on pause for the time being,” Kean said. “Everything has been really uncertain and unknown as for what my future holds, and this has been really unsettling to me.”

Kean said she has been applying to “every job under the sun,” hoping to hear back. But she is determined to stay positive.

“The job market and all the uncertainty is out of our control, but the way we utilize our time and the opportunities in front of us is within our control,” Kean said.

Stevens is in a similar situation. So far, he does not have any plans for after graduation, but he’s reached out to contacts from his previous internship at CBS’s “60 Minutes.” However, the CBS broadcast center got hit hard with coronavirus, causing most people to work from home.

“It is definitely a hard experience right now because I am entering a job market that has record unemployment numbers, and that is difficult,” Stevens said.

Additionally, Angulo, an international student, said the uncertainty of the job market is particularly difficult for her because companies may not be willing to sponsor her amidst this unprecedented time.

“With the job market crashing, the last people that company wants are international students due to the status and the sponsorship,” Angulo said. “I just want to be happy. I have no idea what I want to do. I just want to be safe.”

But the unpredictability COVID-19 is causing isn’t just affecting the job market. Measures to ensure social distancing practices and stay-at-home orders are also impacting those who want to take standardized tests for graduate schools.

In Matt Copello’s case, the continued postponement of the MCAT is causing him much frustration. The biochemistry and molecular biology major is planning on taking one gap year, but if he is unable to take the MCAT, he might have to take an additional one.

“My MCAT keeps getting delayed,” said Coppello. “I was supposed to be taking it on April 4, then it got canceled and rescheduled for May 9, then that got canceled too.”

Others secured a job before the pandemic hit

Some future graduates secured a job before the pandemic hit.

Anna Park, a senior who will be receiving a Bachelor of Arts in music, has signed a contract to teach music, drama and public speaking at Friendship Christian School, a K-12 school in Cumming, Georgia, about 40 miles northeast of Atlanta.

“I was fortunate enough to snag an opening when it was there, and I was fortunate enough to sign before all of this coronavirus thing happened,” Park said.

Yet, there is no guarantee if Park’s school will open in the fall.

“If this doesn't get better, we'll probably have to continue doing online, which kind of sucks because I haven't met my students yet,” said Park. “Hopefully, we go back.”

Ferrante will be working for NBCUniversal after graduation as part of the two-year rotational media tech associates program. She will be on the operations track, where she will be rotating between on-air production, post production and content fulfillment.

Her first role, which will begin July 6, will be the media and content fulfillment rotation, where she will be working directly with teams in New Jersey and California. Because of COVID-19, the first few months of her job will be done remotely.

“I think they're just trying to make sure that everyone's safe because they've stressed in all their communication that they want to put everyone's health above everything else,” Ferrante said.

Ferrante received her offer in October, and she said she feels lucky she has a job during these times.

“Obviously it's different based on where I would be living, but other than that, my plans are still there. I still have a job, which is nice, and it still gets to start on time,” she said.

Class of 2020 members strive to obtain a post-baccalaureate degree

While her time as an undergraduate student at UM is over, Jennifer Hudak will be returning in the fall to pursue her master’s in public relations.

“I know I’ll return to campus soon,” said Hudak, a media management major. “But, I think I’ll miss a lot of my friends and classmates that I know won’t be returning.”

Jason Kaplan, an accounting and finance major, will also be returning to the U next year for graduate school as part of UM’s five-year master’s in accounting program. Afterward, he already has a full-time job offer at KPMG’s Miami office for the summer of 2021.

“I consider myself one of the lucky ones because I don't have to worry about getting a job or moving on,” Kaplan said.

But Kaplan’s summer plans are yet to be determined. He said he was hoping to take two or three parts of the four-part CPA test, but with the pandemic, it is unclear when he will be able to sit for it.

During this time, Kaplan is choosing to look at the positive.

“You know what? I’m lucky. I get an extra year. Not going to complain,” he said. “Could be way worse.”

Other students are planning on continuing their education, just not at UM.

After graduation, Nagururu will be attending Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is unsure whether the fall semester will progress like normal, but he said he is still excited for all the times ahead of him.

“[Johns Hopkins] said that they can’t say anything definitively yet. But just like UM, they have a bunch of plans that they're making in case,” Nagururu said.

Nimesh Nagururu and COISO members

Sydney Maubert, a student in UM’s five-year architecture program, will be attending Yale University and obtaining a post-professional degree in architecture so she can pursue teaching.

“I wasn't even expecting to continue to an Ivy League. It was only last semester, at the encouragement of one of my professors, to continue to go to grad school,” Maubert said. “I really didn't think I was going to go on to higher level education. No one else in my family has, so to have that legacy now is pretty cool.”

At first, Maubert planned on staying at UM to pursue another degree. But when she got off the waitlist at Yale, she knew it was an opportunity she couldn’t give up.

While she doesn’t see a time in the near future where she will be able to return to UM, Maubert said she hopes to teach in the School of Architecture one day.

“I do want to come back to teach at some point, but I don't have a definitive timeline. I just have general goals,” she said.

As these Canes leave the nest they’ve called home for the past few years, they have some parting words and advice for the Class of 2020.

“Your story’s not over yet,” Park said. “A lot of people, including me, felt like this was the end. But actually, it's only the beginning.”

Hudak said it’s important to cherish the moments that were spent at UM and to be hopeful about the future.

“Despite how abruptly our time here ended, I hope this moment doesn’t take away from the whole experience of being a Cane,” she said. “There will be better days at the end of this and hopefully, the opportunity to revisit campus and reconnect with UM.”

As for students who will resume their undergraduate experience in the fall, seniors advise not to take for granted the college experience.

“Savor every moment. I had no clue it was going to end. I was not prepared for it to end,” Stevens said. “The small things end up making the biggest impact, and that is really it.”

Nagururu echoed this sentiment.

“College is a truly phenomenal experience. It probably will be one of the most shaping experiences that you have in your life,” he said. “And I think it's important to realize the magnitude of that so that you take every opportunity that's presented to you.”

Katherine Begg, Nicole Bozkurt, Emmalyse Brownstein, Maria Flores, Massiel Leyva and Isabella Popadiuk contributed to this reporting.