Their Final Semester Upended, CSUN Seniors Continue to Shine

As a first-generation student, communication studies major Carina Pinotti was looking forward to commencement and all it represents: 16 years of commitment to her education and a tribute to her father and deceased mother for the sacrifices they made to get her to the finish line.

Carina Pinotti on a backpack hike in front of rugged terrain.

Carina Pinotti.

Now that most of the country is shut down to stop the spread of COVID-19, it’s unclear when Pinotti will get that moment. Not much about this final semester is going the way anyone planned.

“I have been looking forward to walking the stage at CSUN for many reasons: for my mom who isn’t here to see it, for my father who never did it himself, and for my family who helped me stay motivated these past four years,” said Pinotti. “I am well aware that we are in a pandemic, but the pain I and my fellow classmates feel is real and valid.”

Londy Alvarado poses for a photo outside.

Londy Alvarado.

CSUN administrators are working on ways to help seniors celebrate and reflect on the end of this chapter of their education journeys, including a possible ceremony in the fall. But for now, seniors are feeling the absence of their lost celebration, and still getting used to a semester that suddenly forced many of them from their classrooms to their computer screens. And staying on top of coursework is no easy feat, as seniors deal with adjusting to a new way of life.

“If I graduated in the summer, I wouldn’t mind, but now I won’t have closure or that feeling of accomplishment,” said civil engineering major Londy Alvarado. “This feeling of being in limbo is going to stay with me past the quarantine and until graduation.”

Many Matadors are adopting hopeful attitudes to cope with the challenging transition from a traditional to a virtual classroom. Remaining positive despite unusual circumstances is key for financial analysis major Oscar Romero, who is keeping himself afloat by brushing off all negativity, he said.

“Every semester requires a different level of motivation as classes become much more difficult,” said Romero. “During these challenging times, staying home and watching my family struggle financially has served as a major motivation factor to finish this semester strong and continue with my career right after.”

CSUN senior Oscar Romero takes a selfie in a shirt and tie.

Oscar Romero.

Romero, like many students, has learned that virtual instruction has its perks. Online learning has allowed him kick his studying habits into higher gear, all while dodging traffic.

“The transition has been a blessing in disguise for commuters like myself,” said Romero. “Self-learning has always been a strength of mine, and virtual learning has put me in a position to learn and succeed through such difficult times.”

Despite distracting environments, minimal socializing and stressful news updates, seniors are finding ways to end their last semester strong.

“What I have been doing to stay on track is make a schedule for myself at the top of each week,” said Pinotti. “This gives me tasks to complete each day and allows me to balance work, school and leisure. I also try my best to give myself fruitful, leisure activities such as reading or writing in between assignments because I find it difficult to start an essay when I’ve been on Netflix watching ‘Tiger King’ all morning.”

Apart from online classes, students are relying on technology to stay connected to friends and family all while practicing social distancing. Though many things have been lost, many important things remain.

“I’ve been journaling, meditating, FaceTiming my friends, and watching vloggers on YouTube,” said Alvarado. “FaceTiming my friends during the day is definitely when I’m happiest because, for now, it’s the best substitute for actual human contact.”