Through the last few months, students have navigated loss, connected with others and tackled new ventures, all through a pandemic that has both distanced and brought them closer to their loved ones.
Class of 2020 graduate Alexis Vetack faced complications during the pandemic when she experienced a death in her family during quarantine.
"My uncle actually died of a heart attack during this time period in New Jersey, and so my dad drove up from North Carolina to go help break the news to my nana, and that was really challenging 'cause they couldn't even see the body," Vetack said. "Not being able to have a funeral and mourn in the same ways that we're used to, I think, was really challenging for them."
Fourth-year biology student Naomi Kemp also experienced a death in her family during quarantine when her grandmother passed. However, she said being quarantined provided a silver lining to the situation.
"To have a service for my grandmother over Zoom was kind of hard, but I felt as though being home before everything happened was great for me," Kemp said. "It was awesome to have that time with her that I'm sure I wouldn't have normally, 'cause I would have been in class and I wouldn't have been home for that those few weeks beforehand."
Others have also tried to focus on the positives and have used this period as a time to strengthen their relationships with the people they are close to.
Fourth-year mass communications student Matthew Anderson said being quarantined has brought him closer to some of his family and friends.
"It's like, you have to make a conscious effort to go talk to people, and even family," Anderson said. "Your grandmother you might visit whenever — now it's like, 'Yo, I got to call her,' and you can't, like, literally go over there and see her so you have to call her and be very purposeful and intentional."
Kemp said the best thing that resulted from being quarantined for her was being able to get closer to her family.
"I've gotten a whole lot closer to my oldest sister. She's seven years older than me, and our birthdays are really close but she's been out of the house and out of the state for years now, and so being able to get closer to her has been really nice," Kemp said.
Unemployment has been high, leaving many people without work and pay. For many, this has resulted in uncertainty and loss, but Kemp's oldest sister being laid off served as the catalyst that brought the the two closer together. After losing her job, her sister decided to start her own thrift business, Aunt Viv's Thrift Shop, and Kemp quickly became her partner and helped get the idea off the ground.
"She decided to start the business and was super overwhelmed," Kemp said. "She didn't know how to navigate all the different apps and websites, and so I offered to kind of go on board with her, and we've been going for a little over a month, and it's been great."
Anderson also used quarantine to start something new. He and two friends created a new podcast over quarantine called "Dominate the Decade," which is about each of the hosts "navigating their individual paths to success," according to the podcast's online description.
"With the 'Dominate the Decade' podcast that we got started, that actually got started because of quarantine, and one of the guys, Adarius, that's on it, I didn't even know him before," Anderson said. "It just would not have happened. We probably would have just been focused on our own lives."
Even in the midst of the pandemic, there are still events people want to commemorate.
Vetack said she was impressed by the creative measures people were taking to navigate their challenges during the pandemic. Specifically, she said she liked the way her pre-med fraternity, Phi Delta Epsilon, handled not being able to have a senior night in person.
"Usually we have a senior night within our chapter, and we do gifts and we celebrate the seniors with a slideshow, and so they actually created an Instagram to celebrate and showcase our seniors," Vetack said. "That was really fun 'cause each post was kind of like a puzzle, and you would have to guess which senior it was based off the baby photo and the clues that they gave you on the superlative."
Anderson said his advice for those struggling with how to manage their time during quarantine is to use the resources available to them to learn something new.
"Use the internet," Anderson said. "There's a lot of information on the web ... Just get on YouTube, learn something, build something, so therefore when you come out of this, you know more than you knew coming into it."