GV student joins fellow graduates in reflecting on irregular, unique college experience


GVL / Meghan Tripp

Chloe Schram, Staff Writer

As the Fall 2022 semester draws to a close, many Grand Valley State University students are looking forward to graduation in December.

The transition to life after graduation will not be the first major change these students have faced in the last four years; many students graduating this semester had a college experience shaped by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Many of those facing graduation are now reflecting on these events they’ve overcome as they set out into the professional world.

Mckenzie Bridges is a fifth year student planning to graduate this December. She will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in dance and biomedical sciences. As a 2022 graduate, Bridges has endured various challenges throughout her four and a half years at GVSU.

“Most of my freshman year was pretty normal, until we had the polar vortex in January 2019,” Bridges said.

The persistence of arctic conditions and subzero temperatures facilitated by the event made leaving the house dangerous. Classes were canceled for one week in 2019 due to ice and snow.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which began in Michigan with a lockdown in March 2020, has also had a lasting impact on students’ college experience, as well as their lives outside of school.

“At first when COVID hit, it felt like no big deal,” Bridges said. “We were all happy that we had two weeks off, and my roommates and I actually went to the mall the day we heard about class being canceled.”

In the beginning of the pandemic, students knew very little about what the next two years would hold. When students like Bridges were welcomed back to GVSU in the midst of the pandemic, every aspect of their college experience had changed.

According to the National Library of Medicine, 71% of students reported an increase in stress and anxiety due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Bridges said it became increasingly difficult to stay focused and optimistic coming back to GVSU for the 2020-2021 academic year.

“It was quite an adjustment,” Bridges said. “I would lay in bed and listen to zoom classes, but I didn’t feel like I was really involved in class.”

Such a slow year full of masks, zoom classes and quarantines made the 2021-22 academic year, in which restrictions were reduced.

“In the dance department, we had real shows with audiences, and almost all of my classes were in person,” Bridges said.

While still aware that the pandemic was nowhere near over, the 2021-22 school year gave students a feeling that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel. The ability to have almost all in-person classes added a sense of normalcy to students’ lives.

As the fall 2022 semester comes to a close, graduating students like Bridges have begun to reflect on how they are feeling.

“I feel a little bit of everything,” Bridges said. “I’m excited to move on and see what’s next, but part of me wishes I could still have those two-ish years that we lost to the pandemic.”

Bridges also offered students advice for their college experience prior to graduation.

“Stay in touch with your advisors, get involved as much as you can and try something new because you might learn something about yourself,” Bridges said.

Bridges and her fellow graduates will participate in their commencement ceremony on Dec. 10.