Michaela Lumpert, Campus Carrier news editor

This year, December graduates are facing unexpected hardships that no other class has faced before. Because of COVID-19, job markets are smaller and opportunities for December graduates are hard to come by. More of them are changing plans that they set last year in order to accommodate the strain that COVID-19 has put on their lives. 

Senior Ben Lord has been planning to graduate early from the time he started at Berry three years ago. COVID-19 did not change his mind about graduating early, if anything, he stated that it motivated him to finish stronger than he would have. 

After Berry, he will be working for NCR Corporations as a Public Affairs and Communications specialist. The job came to him after he completed an internship with them over the summer. His biggest fear about the process of applying for jobs was the possibility of not receiving a job offer after his internship. According to Lord, because of COVID-19, NCR could not accept the same number of interns that they normally do. 

“If it had been a non-COVID year, we would have walked out of that internship with a job offer,” Lord said. “They are growing at a crazy pace, and most corporate internships are feeder programs for full-time hires. It was maddening not to think, ‘oh woe is me,’ if it weren’t for COVID, this was almost a for-sure thing.” 

In terms of finishing his last semester at Berry, Lord believes that although COVID-19 stole most of the time he could have had with his friends, he still made the most of this last semester. He explained that because of COVID-19, he has been able to have more intimate and creative gatherings with his friends. 

“My close friend group appreciates each other’s company more in person,” Lord said. 

Senior Elizabeth Bradshaw has also been planning to graduate early since before COVID-19, but because of the virus, she explained that she had to create more options for her future than what she was planning on. 

“It was not the job market I was expecting,” Bradshaw said. “I have applied for 41 jobs, and I definitely have considered graduate school more now.” 

Although she feels that Berry has prepared her for entering life after college, she still believes that she is missing on most opportunities that other December graduates from previous years were given. 

“It is a little weird because I feel like normally there would be more opportunities so you would be able to move more easily into something right away, so I will probably have more time where I would be living at home until I get a more stable, full time job,” Bradshaw said. 

Bradshaw has received an offer to work in a leadership training development program at Dollywood, but she described that she is keeping her options open and continuing to find an opportunity that will suit her the best. According to Bradshaw, while she might be nervous, she looks forward to what the next chapter will be. 

“I feel like I’m moving onto something new,” Bradshaw said. “I’m ready to be out of the environment where I’m in class every day and taking tests all the time.”

Still feeling the pressure from COVID-19, senior Emily Reid has finally narrowed down her plan for life after Berry. Starting in January, Reid will be returning to Berry to attend the two-year project management track MBA program that Berry offers, while also working as a graduate assistant and Communications Manager for the Center for Personal and Professional Development. 

Despite the added difficulties that a pandemic brought, Reid looks forward to the new journey she’s starting at Berry. 

“Especially this semester, really having to adapt to everything, [Berry] has prepared me,” Reid said. “Even though there are a lot of uncertainties, I feel really good about [graduating].” 

Although prepared to graduate, Reid stated that because of COVID-19, she believes that she is leaving her friends without having spent as much time as she wanted to with them. 

“I feel like I’m missing out on time with friends,” Reid said. “Everyone has been so stressed and busy this semester that we haven’t had time to get together and bond.”

Regardless of this feeling, COVID-19 has also taught her to enjoy the little things about life. She stated that she learned to love the little moments she had with her friends, like driving to get dinner or walking to class together, as much as the big moments. She also appreciated more the opportunities she received. 

“I did not expect to come out of this semester, knowing what I would be doing,” Reid said. “That is such a huge blessing.” 

For December graduates, the road has been rocky, but they each look forward to walking across the graduation stage come May. While COVID-19 continued to create hardships for each of them, they all feel they are leaving Berry ready for a new chapter without having any regrets. 

Posted by Campus Carrier

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