Community, Features, Impact

Class of 2021 reflects on unprecedented college journey

As the end of the Spring semester approaches, Boston University’s Class of 2021 is on track to complete an unprecedented, hybrid senior year. Their journey — intercepted by the pandemic — was marked with challenges, but also growth, students say.

boston university class of 2021 banner outside the george sherman union
Class of 2021 banner in the George Sherman Union. Boston University seniors say they faced challenges throughout their college journeys, but also experienced personal growth. SOPHIA FLISSLER/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Veronica Escobar-Mesa, a senior in Questrom School of Business, said her four years at BU pushed her to become more independent as well as academically and professionally strong.

“I grew a lot personally,” Escobar-Mesa said, “in terms of being able to live by myself and take care of myself and learn to do everything.”

Escobar-Mesa said her experience at Questrom and BU in general “surpassed [her] expectations incredibly.”

Thinking back to her freshman-self, Aislinn O’Brien, now a senior in the College of Arts and Science, said she’s surprised by her development while at BU.

“I think I underestimated the amount of growth that college would entail,” she said. “Obviously not having the foresight to predict a pandemic, but it was definitely very different from what I expected.”

O’Brien said though classes are nearly finished, she can’t believe her time at BU is over. However, she said being able to graduate in person is a comforting return to normalcy, making the end feel “a little bit more real.”

Norman Toro Vega, a senior in the College of Engineering, said he entered BU studying computer science, but eventually pursued an engineering degree. Toro Vega’s time at school was interdisciplinary and collaborative, getting exposure to humanities and business too, he said.

“I originally came from Puerto Rico, and coming here, it was a huge eye-opener into all these different cultures, all these different backgrounds,” he said, “and how working with those people, you really understand how the world works.”

He also said BU teaches students how to apply their studies beyond the professional world.

“BU has really taught me that mindset about how you can use your studies in a way that’s not just for academics, but at the same time how you can actually create a meaningful impact in the world that’s tangible,” Toro Vega said, “and create a better future for people.”

While the year brought many challenges, Toro Vega said the pandemic created a sense of unity among students where “we were all taking care of each other” and adjusting side by side.

“Obviously, it wasn’t what we might have been expecting initially,” he said. “There were some things that were definitely missing from the whole senior experience, but I feel that at least we had a good senior year where we were able to be on campus.”

While virtual learning has posed some difficulties, Escobar-Mesa said the convenience of studying at home gave her the free time to find a job after graduation.

“I’ve had a bunch of opportunities that I think I wouldn’t have had if I had had a normal senior year,” she said. “It has been challenging to study virtually and not be able to see a lot of the people that I saw almost every day for three years, but I think that I’ve still been able to … have some of the experiences I would have had.”

In terms of advice, O’Brien encourages incoming students to build their social network while on campus. She added that students should not be afraid of taking advantage of office hours or seeking mentorships from professors.

“Don’t be afraid to be wrong,” O’Brien said. “Everyone is going to be wrong at some point. The reason that we’re here is because we don’t know everything yet.”

Escobar-Mesa said she’ll miss the people at BU the most — the “friends that became family” and the familiar faces down the street. For current students, she said getting to know more people and talking to professors can open a number of opportunities for them.

“There are a lot of opportunities that I was able to get and experience because I reached out to people and I had conversations,” Escobar-Mesa said. “It’s rare when opportunities just come to you, you kind of have to go out and get them yourself.”

Toro Vega advised students to not be afraid to change their mind and grow like he did, adding that it’s also important to make the most of time with friends.

“Be open to change,” he said. “At the same time, spend as much time as you can with your friends because you never know when a pandemic will happen.”

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