By Grace Blanchard
The University of Maine class of 2023 has had — to say the least — a unique experience. As graduation approaches, it calls for a time to reflect on what these past four years have looked like in these unprecedented times.
For many members of this graduating class, they had what could be called the last “normal” year before COVID-19 changed the landscape of learning and how we function as a society. In 2019, these undergraduates were the last to experience life on campus before masks, vaccine mandates and overall uncertainty of these times.
Spring 2020 left those living on campus scrambling to get moved out of the dorms while watching the chaos of the events unfold. We were sent home not knowing if it would be days, weeks or months until we stepped back on campus. Nobody could have predicted the extent of the lockdown.
College students were all affected in different ways by the pandemic and the changes it ensued. For the class of ‘23, they had a glimpse of what this chapter of their life was supposed to be, and then watched it get stripped away.
It is now 2023 and we have adjusted back to this new version of “normal,” as mandates are lifted and in–person classes are becoming much more common. This graduating class can be grateful for smiling faces again on campus, but that does not erase the fact that what might have been was taken away.
Here are accounts from members of the class of 2023 on what their experience has been at UMaine.
Michael Corrado, fifth-year journalism student, class of ‘23
It’s pretty crazy how much a place can change in just five years, but I can safely say that the campus here in Orono is a completely different place than it was in 2018 when I arrived as a freshman. The COVID-19 pandemic played a major role in changing the social dynamics of the university, and having to eat out of green containers and meander Hancock Hall as if I was navigating a cell block really didn’t help to bring back any of the magic that felt as if it was everywhere in Orono five years ago.
I do look back fondly on the 2018-19 school year, as I grew more than I ever had in the 18 years prior, though I just wish that experience was fluid throughout my stay here in Maine. If I could do it all over again though, I think I absolutely would. The friendships I’ve made and experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have will be ever present in my mind for the rest of my life, and I’m beyond grateful to Maine Campus Media for allowing me to share my thoughts and stories with the community. I will always value my time spent in room 141.
Parting words of advice from Maine Campus Media seniors:
“Get involved in any club or organization that seems slightly interesting to you; that’s how you’re going to build some of your strongest friendships in college and beyond.”
“Your college experience is for you, not for others, so do what’s right for you.”
“Maximize your experience for every dollar you can. You’re paying them, they’re not paying you, so do whatever you can to get everything they offer.”
“Surround yourself with people within this community who add value to your life.”
“Don’t forget who you are; stay true to yourself.”
“Read all the Maine Campus has to offer to stay updated on the UMaine community.”
College is a time to discover who you are. It requires patience with yourself, and trust in the process. These have been unordinary times as we try to figure out as a community what this new “normal” looks like, but we must continue to make the best of our college experiences. Be proud of the accomplishments you have made during these times of uncertainty.
Congratulations from Maine Campus Media to all the 2023 graduates!