The Impact of Coronavirus on My Senior Year

by Nathan Foster

As I drove away from University Village last week, I looked back at Azusa Pacific University’s East Campus for the last time in the foreseeable future. This had been my home for the past four years, minus one summer and a semester away, and all of a sudden, I had to say goodbye. I had to abruptly leave my roommates, my friends, my classes, my jobs, my independence, and my campus with only a week of warning. Everything seemed so sure for the end of my senior year, the end of my 16 years of education, and then it wasn’t. The coronavirus took a lot from me, and countless other seniors at APU and across the country, but it could not take one thing — the memories.

I remember when I arrived on campus in late August 2016. I had been to APU only twice before, once for a preview weekend and once for orientation. I had no idea what to expect over the next four years. I just hoped I would make good friends and grow as a student, a person, and a Christian. The first of these concerns was alleviated when I moved into my dorm room in Smith Hall and met my two roommates, Garrett and Jonathan Davis, who would become two of the best friends I have ever had.

Though in some ways it seems long ago, I can still remember many things from freshman year. My roommates and I would pull pranks on each other and our RA. We would stay up until 1 or 2 a.m. every night because we didn’t have classes until 11 a.m. We would feast on massive Mexicali Grill burritos and show each other countless memes. I don’t think I could go back to living in a dorm now if you paid me, with the community bathrooms and lack of a kitchen, but I treasure the time I had in Smith Hall.

After a summer back home in Reno, Nevada, I returned to APU for my sophomore year. I lived with the same roommates and revelled in the space University Park offered. Each day, I would venture to West Campus where most of my journalism and honors humanities classes took place. I would get into heated debates with my honors friends in colloquy over Dante or Thomas Hobbes, then I would head into my sports communication class where we got into many arguments about our favorite football and basketball players. Though they were vastly different subjects, I loved them both. One of my favorite memories came in the sports communication class when we had the opportunity to attend a LA Clippers game, talk to their head of PR, and sit in on a press conference with head coach Doc Rivers. This experience reinforced my dream of becoming a sports journalist.

Nothing was as impactful in shaping this dream as my time at APU’s student newspaper, ZU News. I began as a staff writer in the fall of freshman year and wrote so many articles that the staff advisor, Kent Walls, hired me that spring as the opinion editor. During my sophomore year, I helped student media transition from four separate outlets to one convergent entity. We rebranded everything with the name ZU, reflecting our motto that we were the student voice of APU. The newspaper, which had gone by the name The Clause for more than 50 years, became ZU News. It was our “baby,” and we student journalists were very proud of the work we did. I served as the news editor my sophomore year, and after a semester away in New York City, I returned and became editor-in-chief. My experience working alongside professional journalists as a video production intern at Newsweek created a higher set of standards for ZU News, and we improved quickly. Stories came out at a much faster pace and students watched their readership climb.

While I valued my experience in New York, I was delighted to be back at APU, living with one of the same roommates and a couple other friends. We moved into a new apartment in University Village, which became a refuge after insanely long days of working at three different jobs. It was great to take a few classes that were unavailable in New York, including I & II Samuel and hiking. Hiking off of Glendora Mountain Road and seeing the incredible mountains just miles away from the urban environment was awesome. On one particular hike, I remember looking out over the San Gabriel Valley and thinking that this might be a nice place to call home even after graduation.

I stayed on campus over the summer and remained in the same apartment for senior year. Two new roommates moved in and our apartment was never the same. There were many late nights with lots of pointless yelling and lots of pranks pulled — there was never a dull moment. This made homework hard to finish at times, but I managed to complete my last general education, public relations, and journalism classes.

This final semester began on a high note, as I accepted a position with Teach For America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending education inequality across the country. I found out I would be teaching English in Nashville, which meant the next few months in Azusa would be my last. Then COVID-19 struck. Everything changed. At first, classes moved online and we were allowed to remain on campus. Then just a week later, we were informed we had to return home and the May commencement ceremonies were canceled.

While I understood the rationale behind these decisions, and realized college students across the nation were impacted in the same way, that did not take away from the pain of having to bid farewell to my friends and my home. I am still trying to figure out how to cope with the fact that I may never see many of my friends, coworkers, and professors again. I am coming to terms with the fact that I may never get to walk across the graduation stage in front of my family, though I know the university is exploring ways to honor graduates. I am adjusting to the worldchanging impact that the coronavirus has had in my life and those of people all over the world. However, in the aftermath of COVID-19, there is solace in knowing that I will always have these memories, and many more, from my time as a Cougar. Just because the ending is far from what I wanted, my college experience at Azusa Pacific changed my life for the better, and I’m trusting God with my future.

Nathan is a public relations intern in the Office of University Relations. He is a senior double majoring in journalism and public relations.