Taking a semester off: what now?

You would be hard-pressed to find someone whose summer is looking anything remotely like how they had anticipated. And I’m certainly no exception. I hoped to end my last summer in college with a bang and maybe get my foot in the door for the workforce. But that didn’t quite pan out.

Last summer, I was confident that that would be the longest I would be in my hometown. I would have never thought that I wouldn’t graduate in the spring of 2020 or take a semester off from school. And I most certainly did not anticipate a pandemic to take the world by storm.

But that’s what is.

What now?

It’s the dreaded million-dollar question that I wish I had a clearer answer to. Like many other people right now, I’m frantically trying to improvise a plan for the foreseeable future. I want to remain optimistic and hope that something will eventually pan out. But as we have heard over and over again this year, these are uncertain times. Hardly anything is guaranteed. There’s not much I can confidently say will happen over the next few months. Frankly, I think it’s safe to assume most others are in precarious positions, too.

For the summer being, the plan is to continue doing research in economics alongside my father. I spent the summer of 2019 studying trade deficits the U.S. had with top trading partners in the 21st century. I also joined him in studying how income inequality has changed in the U.S. over the past several decades.

My heart is still in writing; no pandemic can take that away. Already, I’ve done feature pieces on two black queer singers for The Tartan in honor of Pride Month. I’m also drawing more webtoons and maintaining my personal site: two things that I’ve been wanting to do but didn’t during the semester. For now, I’m hoping to establish a more consistent uploading schedule that I can maintain later on.

Staying optimistic

One of my favorite sayings is “it may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.” And, frankly, it’s basically the outlook that I’m trying to maintain. I want to acknowledge that situation is less than ideal. It’s tempting to just grin and bear it, but this blind optimism will inevitably burst.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, our current circumstances are imposing constraints on us. The best possible outcomes may currently be out of reach. However, this shouldn’t stop us from trying to work with the cards we are dealt with. For me, this means accepting the circumstances that are leading to this decision and deciding how I want to use this time.

I’m aware of the incredible amount of privilege that is allowing me to write this post. Even more than I am heartbroken that I won’t be back to CMU, I am grateful that I can be put in this sort of situation. I am thankful that my environment is stable and I can put all my focus on my passions and mental health. Hopefully, the next time I come back to campus, I’ll be more ready to finish my undergraduate education strong.

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