Caylonna Perdue – University of Central Florida

As a graduating senior at the University of Central Florida (UCF), my favorite part about being on campus is getting to network with a group of students that are all in the same walk of life as me. This is extremely evident at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management that I have been so lucky to attend the last few years. As colleges across the country have closed or restricted access to campuses because of COVID-19, UCF students have not just lost access to lecture halls, but also access to student lounges and libraries. This has made it very difficult to meet with peers for group effort assignments.

When I first heard the announcement that classes were being moved online, my first thought was that I will never attend a college class again. After the initial shock set in, then my thoughts focused on the fear that they would cancel commencement ceremonies, which unfortunately came next. I had been taking two online courses already this semester and now that number has reached five because of the shift. The hardest part of all of this was having to grasp that our choice in the matter was no longer valid. Some students prefer online courses and some do not. Personally, I am one of those students that loves going to class. The opportunity to hear guest speakers from the hospitality industry who offer real-world advice is one I will never get back. I believe you can read a chapter and take a quiz online to test your knowledge of that material. I do not believe you can gain real-life experience from an online course.

Since moving to fully online, I have noticed my professors are more lenient on grading. They understand the seniors in college right now are getting so much taken from them that we have worked so hard for. Some of my classes are offering optional video conferencing during lecture time where the professor gets on and speaks through the lecture like they would in a normal class setting. With this comes technical difficulties as usual, so I don’t believe you are still getting the full effect of sitting in a classroom lecture hall.

As far as graduation, the university has canceled all commencement ceremonies. This was the most disappointing news of them all. To most students, it is not just walking across the stage as your name is called. It is the biggest accomplishment they will ever earn. It is the one day in their lifetime that mom and dad couldn’t be more proud of them. Personally, my college graduation was meant to be all of the above.

Looking beyond graduation, my biggest takeaway from this time will be that you should never take the present for granted. I am very fortunate to hold a position within the travel industry for a company that will stay afloat after this incredible world pandemic has passed. I plan to remain in my current position until another opportunity presents itself where I find myself more qualified after obtaining my bachelor’s degree in event management from the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management.