“Sometimes you just have to ride through the waves of uncertainty and stay hopeful.”

A senior checks in with other seniors as they work to complete their final semester under unprecedented circumstances and away from the hill.
Posted on April 24th, 2020 by

Class of 2020 seniors show off their virtual learning spaces last spring.

On March 13, the lives of all Gustavus Adolphus College students changed when the College announced a transition to online learning due to COVID-19. Of course the health of our campus and community is the most important thing, but as a senior, my heart still aches over missed “last” experiences: sporting events, dance recitals, plays, music performances, President’s Ball, Senior Week, and on-campus commencement (for now).

Abbie Biegner ’20

I am a senior who wasn’t ready to say goodbye, and I wasn’t the only one.

“The initial shock was tough,” says fellow senior Abbie Biegner ’20, currently at home in Alexandria, Minnesota. “Our spring hopes and dreams and ‘Gustavus Bucket Lists’ were washed away in an instant.” What’s most missed by Sarah Anderson’20 (at her parents’ home in Roseville, Minnesota) is “being within walking distance to a great support system of best friends, coaches, and professors. There is so much passion and connection at Gustavus. I think that’s why we are all so heartbroken.”

As we all settled into remote learning, I spoke with six seniors in the middle of a final semester they never imagined. Here’s how they’re surviving, and—like true Gusties—thriving.

Tackling Class, Balancing Free Time

Gustavus seniors traded the library and the Courtyard Café for new study spots around the world—a chaotic desk in a childhood bedroom, a kitchen counter in the midst of family action, even different locations from hour to hour. “Some days, I’m at the dinner table, other days on the couch (guilty),” says Joyce Amakoue ’20 in Omaha, Nebraska. They’ve created new approaches to studying, as well.  “I had to rethink how I do homework and when,” says Emily Scroggins ’20, holing up in Auburn, Alabama. “I have made a huge calendar of all the assignments due this month, and the Post-it Notes app on my computer has been a to-do list lifesaver.”

Zach Diedrich ’20

The first week was the most challenging. “I was definitely floundering,” says Amakoue. “The second week, I made sure to plan out certain assignments I’d like to complete on specific days to build some structure back into my routine.” Structure seems to be key. “This situation has given us a lot of free time to explore new things,” says Clifford McDonald ’20, currently in Chester, Virginia, “but it also has created the challenge of staying on task and managing your time wisely, which is a great skill to learn.” Anderson agrees. “Going from being busy 24/7 to having all the time in the world seems like a blessing, but it’s feeling like quite the opposite.” She’s putting boundaries between her coursework and her daily life by being intentional with other activities like walks, runs, baking, and catching up with friends.

Remaining a Community

Emily Scroggins ’20 shows off her virtual learning space.

For community-oriented Gusties, being separated from friends and campus family is one of the greatest challenges of this unprecedented senior spring. But we have discovered ways, particularly digital ones, to stay connected, and these connections are lifelines. “I do video calls with my friends out of state a lot,” says Lucio Gonzalez ’20 in Inglewood, California. Says Biegner, “My friends and I have connected on every platform you can think of.” Some seniors have gotten creative with the video calls. Says Zach Diedrich ’20, hunkered down in Bloomington, Minnesota, “My friends and I hosted our own Karaoke Night over Zoom. We ended up singing and chatting for almost two hours.”

This continuous push for connection despite distance is a reminder of the strength of the Gustavus community, these seniors say. So is “the professors’ commitments to the wellbeing and success of students, the College’s generosity, and outreach from so many peers,” says Anderson. Says Scroggins, “Being at home has given me the outside view of the unique experience I had at Gustavus. I hope to carry the Gustavus sense of community importance and relationships and connection building into my future.”

Joyce Amakoue ’20

Finding the Silver Linings

As much we’d all love to grasp COVID-19 by the hands, lead it away from us, and continue with life as normal, we can’t. Amakoue says she “would give anything to have one more Omelet Thursday and a black tea lemonade from the Courtyard Café.”  She also says, “Sometimes, you just have to ride through the waves of uncertainty and stay hopeful.”

There are also a few surprise benefits to this particular adversity, these seniors note. “One has been being able to come back home to my family,” says Gonzalez. Says Scroggins, “I get to see my cat. He’s super sweet and has become a great homework buddy.” Seniors have had some time to relax and try new things. “I’ve been able to reflect on my time at Gustavus, and I’ve had a lot more time to listen to music, watch movies, read books, and get creative by painting and drawing,” says Biegner.

Sarah Anderson ’20

She goes on: “Gustavus has taught me more things than I can count, but especially now it has taught me about perseverance, commitment, kindness, and, above all else, that we are never alone and can count on each to get things done.”

“As my coach Brenden Huber reminded me, ‘Gustavus prepares us to handle this adversity,’” says Anderson. “All of the late nights studying, tough workouts, and navigating our time as college students has taught us how to persevere and deal with the sadness. I will carry this tenacity forward as I graduate, and know I will not take for granted the handshakes and hugs.”

by Corbyn Jenkins ’20
English and communication studies major
marketing and communication content production intern
North St. Paul


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


One Comment

  1. Rev. Arlyn and Jeanne Tolzmann says:

    We feel so badly for seniors, but it is true, Gustavus does help prepare us for life and all its twists, turns, ups, downs and in-betweens. From what we just read from some seniors, proves that point. You will have bragging rights in the future, as we had when the late March blizzard of 1965 set records and then in April, floods in the valley forced th closing of campus early for Easter break.

    Rev. Arlyn, ’65 and Jeanne, ’67 Tolzmann