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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Looking back at the class of 2020: Emma Walsh

Rachel Cormier
Emma Walsh sits in the NIU Honors Program Lounge in the Peter Campus Life Building. Walsh attended St. Charles East High School and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. (Rachel Cormier | Northern Star)

What did your senior year look like before the pandemic?

“I feel like I made the most of my college experience as much as I could. I did like a lot of sports, I did band, I did the pit orchestra for the musical — I was in a lot of clubs.”

Do you remember the day that COVID-19 changed everything?

“I was in the pit orchestra for the spring musical my senior year and obviously that got canceled. But we were at rehearsal, I think it was a Monday or Thursday, I don’t remember. I think it was Thursday actually, and my director, he kind of gathered us all together and he was just like, ‘Yeah, so we’re gonna be home for, like, I think it just started as two weeks or whatever it was for everyone. He’s like, ‘I don’t know what COVID means for the musical.’”

When it became clear you were not returning to school, what feeling was going through your head?

“I was devastated, like, genuinely so devastated. I think just because I didn’t get to say goodbye to any of my friends. I didn’t really get to do any of the fun like second semester, senior stuff that everyone was going to do years before me — none of us had any closure.”

Did your school hold a graduation and what did it look like?

“There was a lot of debates about do we want to have something outside? Do we wanna do a video? Do we want to do something more like a cookout? They had this idea of doing a cookout on the football field – socially distanced cookout.”

“My high school did a video. So they took like a picture and then like a senior quote basically and then they would announce my name in the video. So my first time walking was at Honors Day two weeks ago now almost and that was crazy. But yeah, so this will be my first “graduation” graduation ceremony, which is definitely weird, but I’m excited.”

Do you have any regrets?

“I feel like I did everything that I could have done, and like COVID obviously was out of my control, but if I could go back, I would just make COVID not happen.”

What happened right after senior year?

“So, my freshman year was completely online except for marching band.”

“My only time I was on campus was for band and even that was weird. We had to socially distance, wear masks all the time, we didn’t really learn drill. We just kind of did basic block stuff, but all my other classes were online.”

“I made an office in my house so we did like a spare room so I turned it into my office and that’s where I did all my homework and everything. But I do remember in my English class, one of my first classes we were in Blackboard Collaborate, a breakout group and we all started talking to each other and that was the first human interaction I had had with new people.”

How do you feel finally being able to graduate?

“Even if I had had a normal high school graduation, this would still be bittersweet and still hard. But I’m definitely excited. I have a full time job lined up that’s starting in June. So like, I’m excited to graduate and go do that, but definitely I’m gonna miss the people for sure and I’m gonna miss campus and all of that, so I’ll definitely be back to visit.”

What would you have done differently?

“My high school did a good job of making it so that we still had something with the uncertain times. But, like, actually being able to walk across the stage, and I know that people have said to me ‘Oh, it’s not that big of a deal. You just grab it and then you leave.’ I’m like, ‘OK, but I’ve never gotten to do it before so I want my moment.’”

How are you going to celebrate?

“I’m not doing anything huge in regard to parties or anything, but just after the ceremony my grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, my whole family is coming to my house just to have dinner.”

“I wanted to go to Utah, like the state of Utah, for so long, probably since the beginning of high school. I always wanted to go so my parents are taking me to Utah, so I’m very excited to do that.”

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