Sahara Sriraman, Staff Writer
With less than a month until graduation, some VCU seniors are reflecting on their time at the university and the unexpected events that marked their final year of preparing for life after college.
The university and its departments will hold various celebrations in accordance with Virginia’s COVID-19 guidelines. VCU’s virtual commencement ceremony is on May 15, and some departments are organizing smaller ceremonies to recognize students. For more information, visit commencement.vcu.edu.
Senior health, physical education and exercise science major Chloe White said her last year was much better than she originally thought it would be. Although it wasn’t filled with lasting memories, she’s glad she had the opportunity to spend time with loved ones.
“I became a lot closer with my friends, and I became a lot closer with my family over winter break just because we were all always together,” White said.
White was able to focus more on school this year by studying in her dorm rather than at home, she said. She feels grateful that her loved ones are staying safe.
“I’m healthy, my friends are healthy, my family’s healthy, so I couldn’t really ask for more,” White said.
Although White plans to attend VCU’s virtual commencement, she said she’s unlikely to attend the kinesiology and health sciences department’s in-person ceremony because she doesn’t think it is worthwhile.
White will miss spending time with friends on campus and at the library — some of her favorite memories from her time at VCU, she said.
“There’s not a single memory,” White said. “It’s just that feeling I already miss, and I’m going to miss it next year.”
White received certification as an exercise physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine; she’s planning to work in a cardiac rehabilitation facility as an exercise physiologist for clinical experience, although she is still looking for a job. After, she plans to apply to physical therapy schools.
“For PT schools, we have to have a lot of clinical hours and because of COVID, I wasn’t able to get the clinical hours I planned on getting this year,” White said.
Criminal justice senior Kati Flamm, on the other hand, has undetermined plans. She hopes to find a Richmond nonprofit she can work with in order to contribute to the community. As the president of Planned Parenthood Generation Action at VCU, she hopes she’ll be able to work with the head office.
“Especially with everything politically and socially, I just think it’s important,” Flamm said. “Working with Planned Parenthood has been insane and so fun, but also has shown me how much help we need.”
Flamm expected to be offered more internships and jobs, but she said many became unavailable due the COVID-19 pandemic.
Political science and urban planning senior Tessa Demarest said she’s going to miss VCU’s smaller communities, including the VCU Learning Gardens, a communal garden where people can garden and expand their knowledge about healthy food, and the Honors Student Executive Board, of which she was president.
“If I end up moving out of Richmond, I’ll miss the entire city of Richmond because I’ve just done so much growing up here,” Demarest said. “It’s such a beautiful city with beautiful people.”
Demarest said she expected to go into the workforce directly after graduation but because of the pandemic, she’s going to attend graduate school. She said she’s planning on getting her master’s degree in public policy or public administration at either VCU, American University or George Washington University.
Demarest said she probably won’t attend the virtual commencement because she’ll be attending in-person ceremonies for her departments and the Honors College.
“It’s going to be kind of crazy because it’s going to be back to back to back, but I’m so excited,” Demarest said.
Nat Arcos, a biology senior, said she was excited for college but that her mental health was negatively affected when classes went virtual. She’s spent two years at VCU since transferring from Lord Fairfax Community College.
“I’ve struggled with various stuff since I was younger, and having the world shut down out of nowhere, it really takes away the control,” Arcos said.
Arcos is applying for internships close to northern Virginia and plans to apply for graduate school in a year. She said she wants to gain work experience before continuing her education.
“It’s not necessary for you to follow a specific path,” Arcos said. “If you don’t have plans for after school, you’ll find your way.”