It was just a few weeks ago that students across the globe were taking their final exams, writing their last essays, and putting the finishing touches on their thesis projects—all from the comfort of home. When schools closed their doors back in March due to COVID-19, there was a lot of uncertainty as to what would come of the spring semester. As time has progressed, it’s been truly astonishing to see communities come together to create virtual proms, graduations, and commencements for students, but we couldn’t help but wonder how the students themselves are actually feeling.
Rather than trying to imagine what it would be like to have our college semester completely uprooted and moved virtually online, we spoke to five fashion students about their experience. Overcoming an enormous amount of uncertainty and emotions, find out how these determined five students finished this past spring semester.
Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts at The New School
Journalism + Design & Fashion Communications—Class of 2020
What was your graduation day like?
“After four years of nonstop hard work and moving 2,000 miles across the country alone, I woke up the morning of my graduation, opened my laptop, and saw my name float across the screen for three seconds. It just feels like a state of nothingness—if that makes sense. Obviously it was sad to miss the actual ceremony and celebration with my loved ones, but long-term, it just feels bizarre. Especially since I wasn’t really aware when I left for spring break that I would never be coming back. It feels like I don’t have any closure going into the biggest transition of my life. We just got shoved into this abyss of adulthood in the weirdest possible circumstances, with no transition or resources or closure of any kind.”
Do you remember your last day, or the last moment you were on campus?
“I actually skipped what turned out to be my last class ever, because I woke up feeling sick and hadn’t used any of my absences for the semester yet. That was a Wednesday, and everything was canceled by my next class on Friday. So my last moment on campus was probably spent doing something uneventful like throwing out an empty Sweetgreen bowl in the cafeteria or waving to a friend in the lobby. Those little things actually don’t seem uneventful now, and I wish I cherished them more before I left and never came back.”
After graduating, what are your thoughts on the future?
“To be completely honest, my mindset is really pessimistic right now. I have no idea when I’ll have a job, or whether or not I’ll have to move back home when my lease is up. Every time I read the news, I’m reminded that the economy is crashing. I’m trying really hard to stay positive given the privileges that I have, and I’m trying to manifest good opportunities and creative ways to support myself, but some days I’m just overwhelmed with the feeling that there’s no point.”
Fashion Merchandising—Class of 2022
How has COVID-19 and completing this semester away from campus impacted your college experience?
“Being away from school and going completely online has made me realize that I am a really hands-on, face-to-face learner. It was so difficult to grasp and retain information from lectures via video chat in my bedroom versus in a learning environment. It made it very hard to focus and complete work efficiently with home distractions. As for classes that required more creativity [from me,] being away from the city and lack of contact with people made it very hard to find inspiration.”
What was it like to finish your final project?
“I had a few final projects this semester. One was to create a sustainability organization system; another one was actually a statistics project. Fortunately, it was nothing too crazy—even though all of these were group projects, so being away from school did hinder communication a lot. We mostly corresponded via Zoom, but there were always issues with either technology or time zones. It was also a lot harder to get in touch with professors for questions and things like that.”
What are your thoughts on returning to campus?
“I will never complain about school again—haha. I never thought I’d actually miss it. I miss my commute to and between classes. I miss being able to chat and work with my professors and classmates. I miss just being in an environment where the main priority is to learn. I really hope that school is open for the fall. Doing another semester online will drive me insane!”
Fashion Institute of Technology
Fashion Design—Class of 2020
Can you tell us if you remember what your thoughts were in the beginning of the semester? And if so, how have they changed?
“The semester before our final semester, our teachers would tell us about how organized, planned out, and diligent we had to be for our final semester in order to finish our thesis collection on time. There was a lot of pressure, and so I had this rigorous plan laid out, a very strict timeline, all that stuff. But then it was pretty much dropped once the school closed down. My thoughts at the point were to just graduate and finish school.”
What was your final project for this semester? How did you go about completing it?
“My final project for the semester was my thesis collection—I finished two of the three looks we were originally required to make. I luckily have a sewing machine at my apartment (many students don’t, so they had to hand-sew full garments), so I was able to sew from home, and the floor became my work table. My back and knees got very sore. Everything took a little longer to do, and there were a lot of things I had to substitute, change, and get crafty with. I had to use the supplies that I had at home and just figure it out. Some of the garments I was working on for other classes have mismatched buttons, patchy linings—whatever fabrics and trims I had left over were used in these projects. It was actually a really cool process, and now when I look at these pieces, there’s a lot of meaning to them. Also, it’s great that I got to use leftover supplies that I had and save money.”
How does it feel to be in the class of 2020?
“It’s extremely anticlimactic. I try not to think too much about it because I do get kind of sad. All of us fashion-design majors at FIT have been dreaming about our thesis collections and getting into the final fashion show of the year, “Future of Fashion” (FoF). I cared more about the fashion show than the graduation ceremony. I would fantasize about one of my looks going down the runway if I got in, what shoes would she wear, hair and makeup, who would be my plus-two to the show, what would I wear… It’s silly, but it’s such a big moment for us. There’s huge industry people, designers, etc., that come to the show, and a lot of students get picked up for jobs. I really just wanted to feel that moment of all my hard work being noticed and celebrating it with all of the people that I toughed it out through the years with.”
Fashion Institute of Technology
Fashion Business Management—Class of 2021
What are your feelings heading into your senior year of college after seeing how the class of 2020 finished this semester?
“Watching the class of 2020 have their semester end the way it did was sad. They missed out on their last semester of college. They missed out on so many important things, such as graduation and their senior-year fashion show. I’m hoping that my senior year won’t be affected…but I have a feeling that my first semester, at least, will be online as well.”
Can you tell us about what your final was?
“[My] final project for the semester was to create a mini collection for the Spring/Summer 2021 season for any brand of our choice. We were asked to take six key styles and develop them into 21 different styles based on our textile and brand knowledge, trend forecasting, and retail math. We had to provide the fabric and fiber construction, retail price… it was a lot of work.”
Tell us about one of your last moments on campus.
“I actually remember the last time I was on campus, I believe it was March 13th. Prior to that, our professors were aware how the semester was quickly evolving and were warning us that our classes could be online in the future. Everyone seemed a bit timid to be on campus and apprehensive about what the future of the coronavirus would be.”
Parsons School of Design at The New School
Fashion Design BFA—Class of 2020
How has COVID-19 affected your plans after graduation?
“During my spring semester, I was a design intern for a brand I absolutely adored. I was incredibly happy with the job and was set on staying with the company after graduation. But when COVID hit, they were forced to terminate their internship program, which brought my time working there to an end. I would say that out of all things, this affected me the most. I was so determined to have that job after graduation. I loved the team, I worked hard, and I was good at my job.
“When March came, I went from being so certain about my future to not having a plan anymore. And now, instead of celebrating my graduation, I’m dreading the possibility of unemployment. Everything is incredibly uncertain for me right now. I’ve felt scared, I’ve felt hopeless, and I’ve felt useless. But this won’t last forever, and I have a feeling that we as creatives will bounce back stronger than ever. As of now, I’m making use of my free time by cooking and drawing and ultimately creating a better version of myself for the future.”
Now that you’ve officially graduated, how does it feel to be a part of the class of 2020?
“I would say that the class of 2020 is definitely one that will never be forgotten. We are being empathized with by people of all ages, all over the world. At first, I’ll admit that I was very upset that I would not have a normal graduation or end-of-year fashion show, which made me feel like my hard work was not going to be recognized. But as I thought about it, I realized that we are all going through the same thing, and there are people with far bigger problems than mine. Overall, I’m still very grateful to be able to receive my degree and say that I am a graduate! Even though I was not able to thoroughly enjoy my last semester of senior year, being a part of the class of 2020 has definitely taught me a lot about patience, understanding, and resilience.”
What was it like for you to finish your final project?
“My final fashion project was my thesis collection, which was a yearlong project that started at the beginning of my senior year. In the middle of March when COVID hit, [it] was also crunch time for thesis [projects.] I was supposed to be completing my final garments, doing a photo shoot, putting together a professional portfolio, the list went on and on. Due to stores closing, I wasn’t able to buy some fabrics that I needed. Thankfully, I had my own sewing machine at home, so I was able to continue working with what I did have. I completed all but two garments from my collection, but I would say that I got pretty crafty with my limited resources. One of my pieces—a top—required 10+ yards of gold chain, which I wasn’t able to get. So I actually linked up every single one of my gold necklaces and bracelets to complete the piece, and it worked out pretty well. I also had to model my own garments and do an at-home photo shoot with my roommate’s help, using natural light and a white canvas as a seamless. Overall, I’m very grateful that I was able to complete my thesis with just [a] few mishaps. This experience has definitely taught me how to be resourceful, to say the least.”
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