The first thing you should know about KSA is that we are a family, and we have each other’s backs. Knowing I always had a home at KSA got me through the darkest and most unpredictable times in my life. I am a graduate of the class of 2020, so as you can imagine, the end of my senior year did not go according to plan. 

The first week of March I spent with my friends on our spring break in Fort Lauderdale, FL. When we arrived, we were casually drinking Coronas joking about how this wasn’t the only Corona we were going to be getting during the week. That joke did not age well; by the time we were on the plane home, our school canceled classes for two weeks, and we were nervous to cough around other people.

As you know, the situation only escalated from there. Instead of returning to Fairfield University, I went directly to my parent’s house in North Kingstown, RI. Before the end of the two weeks, the school announced we would be continuing virtual classes through the end of the semester. Our senior events we had been looking forward to since freshman year were canceled, and even our graduation hung in the balance. Graduation ended up getting pushed to October and has since gotten pushed further into 2021 to a date that is still unknown. 

In a whirlwind, I and the rest of the class of 2020 went from excitement to celebrate our accomplishments over the past four years and dreading the end of our carefree college life, to having the college life end in the blink of an eye without any of the celebrations.  We had a whole week of senior events lined up that we were already looking at dresses for, had already voted who from our class would be the bridal party for the annual mock wedding in April, and were waiting to find out who would be the DJ at our spring concert on the beach. All of it was gone in an instant, my last volleyball tournament, my inauguration ceremonies into honors societies; I don’t think I’ve ever felt my heart sink so low in my chest before.

With everything shutting down so quickly, there were so many moments I did not know would be my last while they were happening. I remember going to our college bar across the street from my house an hour before it closed to take a house shot with friends, not knowing it would be my last time for a while. I even regrettably skipped my last in-person college class ever (and I am not the kind of person who skips classes).

It felt like a nightmare we would wake up from, but no matter how many times I pinched myself, the endless days of nothing continued on. There were so many times I would take a minute and think to myself “how is this really happening?” I operated in a state of disbelief, and when graduation day came and went with no pomp and circumstance, it felt like it was almost never real at all. 

Before life in a pandemic became our reality, my friends and I were already on edge about college ending, not having a new academic year to look forward to in the fall, and parting ways with friends we’d bonded with over these past four years. Although we were nervous about not knowing what was ahead for us, we would have never fathomed anything like this. We were thrown into the real world with the worst job market since 2008. Pretty much all job postings were closed, and even those of us who were lucky enough to already have a job lined up post-grad had their offers rescinded. Some of my friends found their dream jobs, just to have them ripped away before they even started. A time that was supposed to be full of promise for the future quickly became the darkest time any of us had ever experienced. 

Now, I know I can’t really complain. I’m one of the lucky members of the class of 2020. While my friends were desperately searching for jobs, I knew I always had a home I could return to no matter how bad things got. I had always maintained a great relationship with KSA. Essentially anytime I came home from school and had free time, Katie would always have something I could do. It didn’t matter to me what the work entailed, it was always another opportunity for me to learn more and hone my skills. Sure enough, when May rolled around and I was close to becoming an unemployed college graduate, and my anxiety was getting to the point of erupting like a volcano, Katie was there for me with a text message asking if I wanted to work 15 hours a week because they could use some help, even during COVID. 

I took Katie’s offer without thinking twice. I was probably the only person I knew at the time who was doing a job they actually liked. The whole 15 hours a week thing didn’t last long, and I was working closer to 30 hours a week by week two; by the end of the summer, we were talking about a full-time offer, and I have since accepted a position as a Campaign Coordinator. 

My experience is very different from most of the class of 2020. Many are still struggling to find work or are in a role they do not like. I found myself in a role I love and am keeping myself busy enough that the hours a day I do get to sit around and do nothing are looked forward to rather than dreaded. 

I am a unique case where I have come through COVID feeling accomplished as I secured my first job doing work I love with people I love. When I think of where I am compared to many people around me, I am extremely grateful for the opportunities KSA has given me and feel so lucky to be in a position where I am feeling fortunate, rather than the frustration many of my peers are feeling. 

COVID has been a time that has challenged me, as well as my peers, to reevaluate my expectations. It has taught me about the unpredictability of life and how to find the good in situations that seem to be all bad. I never thought I would graduate from college without walking the stage, and all those senior events that seemed like guarantees in life never really were. In a time that seemed like it was the darkest in my life when I found myself constantly saying “how is this happening to me, why did this have to be my year”, I managed to find a bright light. I found good in the nightmare that has been this year, and I know most people have not been that lucky. 

KSA gave me a place to go and people I could depend on, which is huge in this time of uncertainty. I was able to grow during this pandemic rather than shrink, and KSA helped me through what was on track to be the worst year of my life.