Less than a week ago, a friend of mine studying at Columbia University in New York texted me to ask if I’d heard the bad news. Columbia, one of my top choice schools for graduate school, would not be accepting Ph.D. candidates in my field for fall 2021.
Already my plans for senior year have been destroyed: my study abroad program got cancelled, the conferences I was scheduled to present at have been postponed indefinitely, my Honors Thesis won't be completed the way I had envisioned and now I may not even be able to apply to grad school.
Of course I had back-up plans — I just never thought I’d actually have to use them. I gave myself a couple hours to freak out before sitting down to contact the rest of the schools I'm applying to and figure out my next step.
For the time being, all I can do is wait. But that’s OK. I don’t know where I’ll be in five years or even know where I’ll be after I graduate in May, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the past year, it's that the key to success is being flexible and learning to adapt.
Watching my professors and peers transition to online classes and handle every crazy twist and turn 2020 has thrown their way has been truly inspiring. If professors can move their entire curricula online at the drop of a hat and students can learn to work from home under severely stressful situations, I can learn to adapt to my current reality.
The events of this year have impacted opportunities for every single student at the University. Studying abroad, attending in-person lectures, going to football games, etc., could soon very well be things of the past, but focusing solely on the negative would be narrow-minded.
Though it may be a cliché, every dark cloud really does have a silver lining. Part of life is learning to take the bad with the good. Maybe we've had more bad than good this year, but we can't allow negativity to run our lives. Zeroing in on the negative prevents us from seeing the positive; negativity only breeds more negativity.
Personally, I’ve been given opportunities this semester I would have missed otherwise — and I'm thankful. I may not have been able to travel to Rome, but I got to move into an off-campus apartment with one of my best friends. I won’t be able to present at conferences or attend as many events, but now I have the time to continue writing for the Reveille, a job I absolutely love.
In no way do I mean to diminish the tragedy and severity of this year's events. But I'm making the active choice to find positive moments amid this chaotic time and I encourage every student, and everyone, to do the same.
Maybe we’ll all have to learn to be a little more flexible in the coming months, maybe we’ll have to go online again and maybe we’ll have to consider different career paths than what we had originally planned. But right now we have a choice: sink or swim. Either we learn to adapt to these changing times or we get swept up in the chaos and grief.
Marie Plunkett is a 21-year-old classical studies senior from New Orleans.