Seniors Speak: Looking Back on Senior Year and COVID-19

Designed by Vaish Tetali ('20)

One of the sections included in the annual Senior Edition is a series of essays titled Seniors Speak. These works are written and submitted to The Acronym by members of the graduating class, allowing them to reflect on their experiences, share advice, and advocate for change. The writer of this piece is Savannah Pagan (UIUC ’24), who lived in 1503 C wing during her senior year. She was involved in Cross Country and Track, was a part of the Makersquad and Allies, and was the President and Co-founder of Nautilus.

I spent three years correcting people when they called IMSA home. How could it be home? It was just a school.

I could not have been more wrong.

IMSA, and the people that made it what it is, will always be my home, whether I’m there or not.

Throughout “coronacation,” I’ve felt homesick. I know, it’s weird, considering I’m technically at home. But I miss my other home, IMSA. I miss walking into the wing commons and being greeted by some of my best friends, I miss walking trips to Orchard, I miss playing Just Dance with my friends and then losing terribly. I even miss waking up late for class and then rushing to get there on time so I don’t get yelled at by Brenda Bazan.

Originally I had planned to write my Senior Speaks article about how transformative IMSA has been for me, and how I really do feel like I found my place and my people here, but I feel now that there are more pressing matters at hand. I’m talking about the elephant in the room: COVID-19.

During Clash week, we were aware of the problem it was causing worldwide, and I, like many others, prayed that it wouldn’t affect us. Yet I couldn’t help but feel that on that Thursday of the pep rally, especially after we got that email stating that we’d be out for a month, that something wasn’t right. Okay, so we’d be gone for a month, that was alright with me, but only because I thought we’d be coming back.

But we all received a much more pressing email later: we wouldn’t be returning at all. Immediately a crashing wave of thoughts ran through my mind. What about all the things I had planned to do? What about my friends? Would this really be the end of my time at IMSA? There’s so much that I haven’t done yet, so much I thought I would have time to do. And I realize that this is a global pandemic, that really it’s not about me or any of the seniors or any of us, but does that mean I’m not allowed to be upset over missing the rest of my senior year?

I’ve heard it from my family already: “Senior year is overrated,” “Prom isn’t even that great,” “You won’t even remember this in 10 years.” And to hear this felt like a sucker punch to my heart. Maybe these things are overrated, but I wanted to be the one to determine my experience and make some final senior memories.

What they don’t realize is that IMSA isn’t like every other high school, that my friends here are more like my family because I’m with them every minute of every day. I’ve spent two years looking at the seniors in awe (and sometimes annoyance) because they were enjoying their last school year with their friends and moving on to bigger and better things. Sure, we’ll all be moving on soon to college, but this chapter of my life has closed early, and I haven’t prepared for it.

So to my incoming sophomores, and future juniors and seniors, I guess what I’m trying to say is live every day at IMSA like it’s your last. Because it just might be. Get out there and make friends, make memories, try something new, tell that person you like them, and really live in the moment and be present in your own lives.

Despite this, I’m thankful I took the time I did have my senior year to live my life to the fullest. Even if it was cut short, senior year has definitely been my best year at IMSA, but it hurts to know that I won’t be able to continue making these memories.

About the Author

Jodie Meng
Jodie was a three-year resident in 1506B who served as the Co-Editor-In-Chief along with Eva Tuecke for the 2019-2020 school year! Outside of The Acronym, she was active in LEAD, SIR, and other extracurriculars. She will be attending Stanford University for her undergraduate education.

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