Even though the semester finished online, it ended (almost) like most do.
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I had final projects and assignments to complete. Juniata College’s athletics department had the Alfies, the annual award ceremony. Although a few things were missing, two important events still happened online: Liberal Arts Symposium and graduation.
Liberal Arts Symposium
Liberal Arts Symposium (LAS) is Juniata College’s version of a research symposium. It is my favorite tradition because it showcases students’ work and projects from the academic year. I was able to present my Hollings scholarship project with the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia because I have been spending the academic year working on a manuscript for a publication with my mentor. The benefit of this being done via Zoom is that my family were able to listen and support me from afar.
Send Off Zoom Calls
As a senior, this semester was supposed to be my last time to annoy my professors and pick their brains. Some of this time was lost, but many departments still gave their seniors a send off celebration. We had a Zoom happy hour to reminisce and tell stories about our memorable moments in the Environmental Science department and at Juniata.
Lastly, I had the infamous virtual graduation.
To be honest, I was not expecting much, but Juniata greatly exceeded my expectations. However, my cap and gown did not arrive in time, so I had to get resourceful. I had celebrated with the Her Campus’ “I’m Still Graduating Event” and had received a cap plus some goodies from a variety of brands, including Havaianas, Conair, RXBAR, Hallmark, and Aussie, so I wore that cap paired with my high school graduation gown.
The Zoom room allowed for 1,000 participants so everyone who wanted to attend, plus the students, were able to join. We sat in my living room and I wore my cap and gown because why not? Unlike most “professional” webinar style Zoom meetings, they allowed for everyone’s screens to be displayed and for us to use the chat box with everyone. This was fun because you could scroll through the pages and see all your friends dressed up, like we would have been.
Messages were sent through the chat congratulating each other and sharing expressions of joy. We had speakers, music, and then a huge surprise. The staff and faculty created a video with heartfelt messages to say congratulations and give us their final goodbyes. During the video, our names and honors scrolled across the screen to honor us all individually. There was also an online program to view degrees and hometowns.
This beautiful video was certainly a surprise. I do not think any other class will have this special moment of pride after months of disappointment.
Watch my moment of fame:
After the celebrating, I hopped on my own Zoom call with my extended family to celebrate.
I am extremely upset that my semester did not end the way I was expecting. However, I am thankful for all the time I had at Juniata and all the lessons I learned while I was there. Thank you, Juniata community.
I am proud to announce that I graduated summa sum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science. I was also awarded Distinction in my major.
I am proud of myself and all that I was able to accomplish despite my academic, mental, and physical struggles.
As I wrote on my graduation announcement:
After graduation and my 22nd birthday festivities were over, I still had work to do! I was still working on my research manuscript with my mentor. I spent the end of May and beginning of June focusing on this paper and writing as much as I could.
I also enjoyed time at home with my family. My mom and I did yoga together weekly and worked on transforming our yard to a meadow. We also all watched a bunch of movies!
Although we were in the midst of a pandemic, having this time at home, even when I was finishing classes, was extremely beneficial to my mental and physical health.
First of all, I was able to better control my Crohn’s Disease through my diet and fitness efforts.
Second, I spent time doing professional development, applying for jobs, and identifying prospective career paths.
During this time, I was able to solidify my summer plans…
Reef Environmental Education Foundation
I am spending the summer in Key Largo, FL as a Marine Conservation Intern with Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF). I will learn more about citizen science through their Volunteer Fish Survey Project and their role in conservation with the invasive lionfish and Nassau Grouper. In addition, I will learn more about my future career options in marine science and outreach.
I also get to dive in the Florida Keys all summer!!!
Super excited to keep you all updated on this opportunity.
Congrats and wishing you the best in your continued work/education! And welcome to the JC Alumni Association!
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I got sent your blog from a Juniata representative, because I am thinking about going to Juniata because it’s semi-local, and I want to be a Marine Biologist, and they have those opportunities (well…you know that, you graduated from them). Do you have any advice for me at all? Any advice would help a lot.
Congrats on graduating!!
Hi Claire! Thanks for reaching out. My biggest advice is to try to gain new experiences, even if they are only for a day, such as volunteering, listening to a talk, or an internship. Additionally, make connections! Reach out and talk to people to learn from their experiences. Set up a Zoom call or a phone call with someone who has an interesting career. However, rather than using their path as your timeline, embrace that you will be on your own individual path. There’s no single quick or easy way to figure it all out. Also, surround yourself with people who have similar interests. Feel free to message me if you want to talk more and I wish you the best of luck on this exciting journey!!!
Thank you for the advice, I will try to follow those tips as much as possible! I really hope your journey is just as good!