State Press Play: Class of 2021: The forgotten class of the pandemic

ASU seniors Pilar Ribera and Daria Yazmiene share their perspectives on how it feels to be a senior during a pandemic

Students in the class of 2021 are experiencing their last year of college a little differently. Being a senior during a pandemic means that there will be many uncertainties regarding their future. ASU students Pilar Ribera and Daria Yazmiene shared what it's like to be in the "forgotten class." 


Autriya Maneshni: 

Picture this: You're in your senior year of college ready to live out your last firsts when everything gets taken away from you by global pandemic. It's a pretty grim picture, right? Well, for the class of 2021, that is a reality they're living in. ASU students, Daria Yazmiene, and Pilar Ribera shared what's it like to have their whole senior year taken away from them while still trying to stay optimistic. First, you'll hear from Pilar. 

So, tell me a little about yourself. 

Pilar Ribera: 

All right, well, hello. My name's Pilar Ribera. Um, I'm a community health major and I attend the ASU Downtown Campus primarily. Um, I'm a senior this year, so this is my last year in my major. Um, besides school, I guess I'm mostly part of Chi Alpha, which is an on-campus ministry, so I do that. Um, and I also work at the Student Accessibility Office on campus. 

Autriya Maneshni:

Oh, awesome. So, you're pretty busy, I'm guessing. 

Pilar Ribera:

Yes. 

Autriya Maneshni:

So, um, I noticed that you said you're a community health major, so how has that been with the pandemic going on? Are you guys learning about it? Are you guys looking into it? 

Pilar Ribera:

Yes, for sure. So a lot of the classes in my major are science-based, and then we do have some more public health-related classes, but ever since the pandemic sort of became a thing in March, um, all the classes I've been taking have been tying things back to it and how it relates to today, because there is a lot of information out there with COVID right now. So being able to educate people in a way that they can understand, but also give them information that is helpful to them is very important, I think. 

Autriya Maneshni

Yeah. And I totally get that because like, I mean, as a journalism major myself, like I have to, you know, also fact check things. And so, you guys are doing that for us, which is nice. 

Let's get into some of the deeper questions: Let's put your senior year aside, let's think about your just everyday average life. How has this pandemic changed that? What are some of the things that you're doing to still stay grounded even though the world is kind of combusting at the moment? 

Pilar Ribera:

Yeah, very good question. I think the majority of what my days look like I'm personally taking all of my classes this semester online to start with. So, it's been very interesting doing all of the classes on Zoom and just learning how to do an online class basically every day of the week. 

I've taken online classes before with ASU, and those have been great, but the majority of my classes have always been in person.

So that has been a big adjustment to kind of get in that space of I'm at school, but I'm also at home. And kind of figuring out how to get into that head space of this is my time to focus on school, even though I'm still sitting in my bedroom all day.

Autriya Maneshni 

Yeah, no, I totally get that. I'm also doing my semester from home and I've basically been trying to rearrange my room to make it feel like a workable place. Now let's talk about your senior year. So, how has the pandemic affected your actual educational senior year? Were there things that you were planning to do this year that got canceled that related to school? Tell me a little bit about that. 

Pilar Ribera: 

Yeah. So, a lot of the things that I was looking forward to this year, particularly the beginning of the fall semester, was a lot of our welcome week events. Mostly because, like I mentioned before, I'm part of an on-campus job that I have, and then I'm also part of a campus ministry. So every fall semester we usually participate in those events to welcome the first-year students and to kind of get them excited about coming to ASU and being a Sun Devil. So I think that was probably the most disappointing part of the semester, was not being able to go out there and encourage students that are starting their first year here. I'm sure for them, this is not an easy semester for them either. Not being able to encourage them in that way is a little disappointing, but, um, we're getting creative in terms of how we reach out to those students and how we include them as a Sun Devil. 

Autriya Maneshni: 

This is kind of like a little bummer question, but do you personally think that your graduating class has been forgotten due to the pandemic? And if so, how? And in what way? 

Pilar Ribera: 

I think this is a good question to think about. I wouldn't say that I feel like I've been forgotten. I think that when it comes to this pandemic, we've just redirected our focus a lot more. Obviously, because the pandemic is, not to say that the pandemic is more important than my graduating class, to say that this is something that demands a lot of our attention, right? Because it was so sudden, and it's something that we're having to deal with on a daily basis. I'm sure there are ways that we could include our graduating class a lot more, but I don't necessarily feel forgotten, if anything, because of my major and because of my viewpoint on it. I feel almost encouraged to kind of ride this out with everyone and my graduating class and just see where this year goes. I think at this point it might be a little heartbreaking not to have expectations, but to have an open mind about what this year is going to look like.

Autriya Maneshni:

Right. So, if you're riding out this the senior year, ends up being another online graduation, how will that look like? What would be some of the ways that you would try to make the most out of that?

Pilar Ribera: 

Yeah, for sure. So, I think me personally, if I had to do, you know, I'll probably have a party with just my family and we probably have it in our living room and we'd celebrate together at home.Of course, it wouldn't be the same. As a first-generation college student, I always dreamed of going to a graduation and invite my family. So, it would be a little bit of a disappointment not to be able to have that huge celebration with the rest of my class. But, I would still enjoy the moment that I'd get to celebrate my achievement at the end of it all.

Autriya Maneshni: 

Yeah, and I love that. And wow. Like the perspective from being a first-generation, like that definitely I feel like plays a very big role in what is going on. How do you think this year will affect your long-term plans after graduating? Do you think they're going to look different? Do you think they're still going to look the same as they did when you were first making those plans when you first started college? So how do you think that will be?

Pilar Ribera: 

Yeah. So for me, I think my long-term plans have always changed every year that I've been at ASU, just because I'm learning something new every single year that I'm here. But in terms of what I want to do in the future, career-wise, I still do have the same goals of wanting to work in certain areas or work in certain clinics or things like that.

But if anything, I think this pandemic is, is going to have lasting effects terms of what I've learned in this entire thing. Especially from like maybe like a health perspective of how, you know, health is something that we can take care of as a community, not just as an individual sometimes.

Autriya Maneshni:

Yeah. 

Pilar Ribera:

Having that perspective and being open-minded about our health and moving forward with it for the greater good is something that I'll for sure be taking into any career that I go into.

Autriya Maneshni: 

Yeah. And I love that. That is such a good, optimistic outlook. Like I feel like if I was in your guys' place, I probably wouldn't have this much of an optimistic outlook.

Kind of like a wrap up last question; so what is something that you are taking away from your experience of, you know, being a part of history and being a part of this pandemic and what is like a lesson that you would want to tell someone who comes either after your graduating class or before your graduating class, about how to deal with the weird uncertain situation in life?

Pilar Ribera: 

Yeah. I mean, apart from a pandemic, life is just going to be so full of different things that happened to us, right? I mean, it could be a pandemic this year. It could be something completely different the next year. And I think if there's anything I'm taking away and that I would possibly pass on to a younger student, it would be to just be open-minded with how you go through life, take challenges as they come.

Put your best foot forward, always be kind to other people. People are going through things that you have no idea about sometimes. Just be someone that, you know, this is the time that you were chosen to live in, and this is your time to learn as much as you can, work as hard as you can and make a difference if you want to make a difference. 

Research, go out there, go beyond the classroom. Don't just show up to class five days a week and be done with it. Take your education to another level. Treat people with dignity and respect as you go out into the world. And I think that's probably the best piece of advice I could give any student, right? Because I feel like four years, you know, you, you think it's going to be a long time, but then you get to senior year and you're like, oh, this went by so quickly.

Autriya Maneshni: 

Yeah, no, definitely like it's just every time somebody has asked me, like what my grade level is, I keep saying freshman. I'm a sophomore now.

Pilar Ribera: 

For sure. 

Autriya Maneshni: 

As a first-generation college student, Pilar's optimistic outlook on her senior year is very admirable. Next, you'll hear from Daria and her message of appreciating the small things, because you never know when a pandemic might appear and just take that away.

So, tell me a little bit about yourself?

Daria Yazmiene: 

So, my name is Daria Yazmiene. Um, I'm 20 years old. I'm about to turn 21 in October and I'm a senior at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. I'm studying broadcast journalism, but I hope to go into entertainment once I graduate.

Autriya Maneshni: 

Ooh, awesome. Just like me. How has the pandemic just changed your life? Not necessarily your educational life right now, but just your regular, average life. 

Daria Yazmiene: 

So, my average life, I'm from Colorado and I haven't seen my family since Christmas. So, then I saw them for a week this summer, so that was kind of hard on me. Um, outside of that, I was supposed to study abroad in Paris for a week, um, to do, to learn about deaf culture and parents with my sign language class, and that got canceled like I think four days after I purchased my ticket. 

So that was very stressful. Um, not only that, but I did also like, I wasn't working mainly. I worked my online TA job the majority of this summer because everything was closed. But that was kind of hard. But I think the hardest thing for me being an extrovert and really loving my friends and family super, like it's the most important thing to me, was being alone for five months. Like I saw very few people. I spent most of my days at home doing work or trying to keep myself busy so I wouldn't think about it.

So, it just felt like I was stuck and without even thinking about it, I did a lot of self-reflection and growing so that's been helpful. I learned ways to communicate better and setting boundaries gave me a lot more communication skills, even though I'm learning communication. I learned how to communicate in a way that doesn't hurt other people but also set boundaries for myself. So, I think that was very helpful. 

Autriya Maneshni: 

I got you. So, now let's talk about your educational year. I know you talked about your study abroad getting canceled, but, um, what else have you experienced since school just started um, that the pandemic has changed? 

Daria Yazmiene: 

Being a senior, senioritis is so real, and going through it once in high school is one thing. You're like, I'm ready to graduate. I am ready to start this new chapter of my life. Now, like, I set up my credits for the majority of college to get a bunch of hard stuff done in the middle and enjoy senior year and go with some of my friends to football games, and spring break and girls trips or whatever, but I ended up just being at home, but like outside of going to work I am at home, doing some classes.

So that's kind of hard. 

But my motivation is completely gone. I don't really care. Sometimes, it kind of sucks but it's real. Like when I get a moment of motivation to do my work, I do as much as I possibly can, because I know it won't last for very long because I'd rather be hanging out with my girlfriends, or on FaceTime with a family member, or just watching Netflix, anything like that.

I'm not someone who, like I love to do work. I'm very driven. But now that I'm so close to the finish line, it doesn't feel like I'm in my senior year. It feels like I'm just doing extra work online instead of actually just getting my degree.

Autriya Maneshni:

Yeah. Yeah, no, I totally understand. Like the whole motivation part is a big deal. So, I know you said that there isn't any motivation, but what are some of the things that you have done to at least gain back some normalcy of that motivation that you used to have when classes were online, or weren't online, and you could go in person. 

Daria Yazmiene: 

I'm the President of Her Campus at ASU. It's an online magazine of Her Campus National specifically for ASU. So one thing that's kept me going is I am the leader of that group and I need to give all of myself to make sure that these girls know that I support them and I'm here for them and I want their voices to be heard on our platform. 

So, I do all that I can to make sure that I'm not just not doing anything, not keeping us on track. I want to make sure these girls get the most out of our organization and have the best experience that they can while I'm still president. And also, it's just, I'm like very sentimental. I love just the little things in life. Like I take Polaroids of all my friends and make it into like scrapbooks, things like that.

So even if it's just helping my friend move into her apartment after being gone for five months, helping her clean or planning my best friends to fly out for my birthday and social distance with me and hang out. It means the world to me. 

Autriya Maneshni: 

I love that. That's such a, it's such a cute thing, like liking the little things. I feel like because of the pandemic, everybody has kind of forgotten to appreciate the little things because we're just focused on like the big picture of, oh my gosh when is this going to end? But I like that you still have your little things. So, this is like, kind of like a little sad question, but do you personally think that your graduating class or the class of 2021 has kind of been forgotten due to the pandemic? And if you do think that how so?

Daria Yazmiene: 

I definitely think we've been forgotten. It's kind of sad. I feel teary eyed about it because the last class, the class of 2020, they lost their graduation, whether they're in high school or in college. And that's a huge thing. They had it online. Like we didn't pay all this money to an organization, not organization, but a college to have a virtual graduation.

And now the freshmen they're like losing all the freshman experiences. Like, I started getting memories on my Snapchat of all the things I did freshman year, like Taylor Fest, all these things, meeting my friends that I've known for three-plus years for the first time. And those are amazing things because you don't get those experiences.

But the difference between the Class of 2021 and the Class of 2020 is that we're losing our whole senior year. And no one really thinks about that. They just think, oh, you guys get to like skate through your senior year by having multiple choice quizzes or whatever. When in reality we're missing our last football game. We're missing our last basketball game.

Maybe we'll have a spring semester. And that's a big maybe because a lot of people don't care. But the sad thing about all of this is that regardless of what's happening, we're being forgotten. Because by the time we graduate, there'll probably be a vaccine and then the next class will get what they want. And a lot of my friends decided, you know, we're going to just graduate a semester early and just deal with it. We're going to get into the job market. I decided to stay. Like I could have graduated last spring. But I had decided I'm going to finish out my four years plus to be a part of Her Campus that I can enjoy my last year fully.

And now I'm sitting here like, I'm not really getting my school, my splash full fourth year. And now like one of my best friends, like I'm just going to hang out with them when, like, just to be safe because the people that I care about most are still social distancing and I appreciate that, but it's not the same.

Autriya Maneshni:

Yeah, I totally understand. You mentioned that you, you could have graduated last that spring. Is that what you said? Correct. Do you regret that decision or are you still finding ways to enjoy your senior year despite this big elephant-in-the-room pandemic? 

Daria Yazmiene: 

I wouldn't change a single thing because even though I didn't get to end my junior year the way I wanted to, or I'm not getting the senior year that I had hoped for, I'm still in the same state with the majority of the people that I've come to love and have changed my life throughout college, and they're making the sacrifices. Like it's not a sacrifice not going to a party. I'm sorry. But they're making the choices that will allow for us to still see each other when we can.

And a lot of us are still in the same classes, and we're doing all of these things that even though I could have graduated a year early, I wasn't ready. It's not for me. I wanted to make sure I was ready. And then I also wasn't ready to leave the state that I love, that I've come to love, and the people that I've come to love, and have made me who I am. 

Autriya Maneshni: 

Aww well, I love that answer. You are the person who is going through a pandemic and there's going to be people after you that are not going to be going through this. So, to those people, what would you say for them to do slash like, what would you tell them to savor in their lives that you probably are not able to do that right now because of the pandemic?

Daria Yazmiene:

Especially for college students, grades matter but they're not your life. I remember the beginning of junior year, last fall, I spent all my time at home.

I think I went and hung out with my friends a couple times, not even enough to count on my, on one hand, and I regret it immensely. The people who are around you, this is the last time in your life that you can be selfish and that you can really do anything that you want before you have responsibility to fill and a family, if that's what you want, or anything else that is on your plate. Enjoy the little moments.

Go bowling with your friends, go to karaoke, do all the things that you wanted to do, and actually do them. Don't wait until you're a senior and you regret it. Don't wait until your friends are a thousand miles away or in another country and making memories that you wanted to make with them. And also tell people that you love them. Tell them how much you care and how much you wish you could hug them, or actually just hug them when you can, like, don't wait until it's too late to do the things you've always wanted to. 

Autriya Maneshni: 

Wow. I love that. And I love that you have a positive outlook and a positive message on everything despite what you're going through. And I just hope that you still have an awesome senior year, even though you don't get to live out the things you wanted. 

And there you have it. If you know someone who is a graduating senior this year, give them a little extra love. It'll go a very long way when you think about what they're going through. For The State Press, I’m Autriya Maneshni. 


Reach the reporter at amaneshn@asu.edu or follow @autriya_manesh 

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