Graduating in a pandemic: December graduate tell-all

By: Pari Apostolakos

Kelly Johnson, senior in advertising and former Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Illini, is graduating from the University this month. UI7 Live’s Pari Apostolakos sat down with her to bring light to the toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on the University experience, the job market, and the world as a whole.

UI7 Live: What has been the hardest part about spending your senior year and graduating early during the pandemic?

Kelly Johnson: The hardest part about spending my senior year during the pandemic was feeling like I couldn’t fully live my final senior year because I wanted to be responsible due to the pandemic. It was sad knowing how different my senior year was supposed to be [if the pandemic wasn’t happening]. However, due to the pandemic I decided to graduate early and in a best worst case scenario, I will hopefully get a full time offer [from the company I am currently interning for] and be able to do work from home from Champaign. That way I can still hang out with my friends.

UI7: How did you cope during quarantine? What, if anything, did you build or discover?

KJ: For me, my roommate and I made a big effort to plan more little events for us. My friends and I were able to create deeper friendships because of this. A long with that, I got more into self-care. I focused on really getting a work out routine and reading a lot more.

UI7: Has this experience taught you anything about life post grad or changed your perspective? 

KJ: This experience has totally shaped my outlook. I think it has taught me how we all need to remember to be less selfish. We all need to work collectively in order to make this world a better place, even after the pandemic is over.

UI7: What advice do you have for spring graduates? 

KJ:  Some advice I have for spring graduates is to just continuously make the most out of the rest of the semester. I know it’s hard, and sometimes it feels like just spending your whole time on Netflix is better. However, I think it’s best if you try hard with your small circle to plan fun little events to do together.

UI7: How do you feel your University of Illinois education has prepared you (or not) for the real world? 

KJ:  I think the University of Illinois has shaped into who I am today. Not only did the top education help me prepare for my field in advertising, but also set me up for the best opportunities. It’s great knowing that when I leave campus, the University won’t leave me. I know that there are many alumni out in the world that will look out for me and help me continue my education long past my graduation.  I had no idea how deeply going to the University of Illinois would impact me, I’m so grateful for my time here and the friends I’ve made.