Onward

Adapt. Pivot. Plan B.

Resilience. Perseverance. Resolve.

In the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, even our vocabulary has changed in response to plans and progress disrupted by the coronavirus. In this series of three, in their own words, Wilson College of Textiles graduates and students share their stories of bouncing forward during this unprecedented time. 

 

Cherish the Moments in the Now | Onward Series Part 1

By Ngoc Nguyen ’20 

(Nguyen graduated in May with a B.S. degree in Textile Technology and was accepted into the Master of Industrial Design program at NC State’s College of Design. She begins her graduate studies this month.)

During the week of spring break (March 9-13), I was enjoying my time in New York with my friends. Aware of what was going on in the world, we were still very cautious with our surroundings – but we also wanted to enjoy our last-ever college spring break trip together. Although the coronavirus situation seemed easy to ignore, the news became worse and everything changed once I got back home.

We received an email explaining how all of our classes were transitioning from in-person to online – and that spring break was being extended. Now, you’re probably thinking what I was initially thinking back then: “This is the best day ever! I don’t have to be in school for another week, I don’t have to wake up early to go to my classes, and online classes?! This will be too easy.” 

It felt surreal that something like this could ever happen to me but my first thoughts wouldn’t stay the same for long.

Once school started back up, my friends and I figured out that we weren’t coming back. Immediately, the Wilson College faculty and staff worked really hard to make us feel comfortable in the new situation. All of my classes had transitioned smoothly, but as a senior in Textile Technology, I was wondering what was going to happen to my Senior Design class that I had worked on all year with my group. Was there a possibility that it was just going to end right there where we last left it?

Luckily, my own project was heading toward the ending point, but what about the other groups’ projects that still needed to be finished? I had so many thoughts racing in my mind, but my professors, Dr. Gorga and Dr. Jur, developed a solid plan that allowed me – and everyone else – to finish in a remote location. Since we weren’t able to have a poster session anymore to share our work (normally held at Hunt Library), they came up with a plan for us to still present our projects to the public – on the TECS Senior Design website instead. I felt a great sense of accomplishment that we were still able to show off our hard work.

Fortunately, I had all the time in the world so I was able to focus on school and end my final semester on a strong note. Looking back, I feel that the way the Wilson College of Textiles handled the transition was done very well. I am grateful to everyone who cared about me, my friends and all students and our needs.

But just as my academic life was taking a turn, my personal life also drastically changed. Those first few weeks were slow and I wasn’t productive at all. However, as time passed, I started to realize that this wasn’t going to be a temporary situation. I knew I had to establish a routine.

Because I always believed that it’s important to relax, keep in touch with friends and family (but now via zoom or facetime) and learn something new, I stayed busy with all that extra “free” time. I found myself cooking new recipes, enjoying at-home workouts, baking banana bread almost every week and investing my time on new creative projects that I never had the time to work on before the pandemic began.  

Even though I sound (kind of) productive, I always suggest that others go at their own pace: you shouldn’t feel like you always have to be doing something to feel like you’re catching up to someone else. I definitely think that’s one important lesson that I have learned, especially in light of the internet.

For example, it’s really easy to spiral through your phone, especially when you have nothing to do, but that’s not always the best approach when you may be in quarantine. I know that the coronavirus crisis has deeply affected a lot of my friends and many people in college from a mental health impact perspective. Students can have a hard time not experiencing any social interaction or feeling alone – and it definitely doesn’t get easier.

But this experience has taught me to constantly be kind to others and to always support people who are in need. I have also been so grateful for all the essential workers out there who risk their lives for us. Although there is a lot going on in the world right now, I am extremely relieved to take this time to focus on myself and I hope others can, too.

Now, five months later, you’re probably wondering how I feel. Well, I feel a lot of things.

I’m sad that I wasn’t able to cherish the last few months of college with my peers and friends.

I’m sad that I wasn’t able to launch the spring semester issue of Platform, a student-run fashion and lifestyle magazine that I had been involved with as Creative Director.

And lastly, I am sad that I wasn’t able to say my goodbyes to the one place that gave me the best college experience ever: the Wilson College of Textiles. Four years of college and I couldn’t even walk the stage to graduate.

Of course, I am allowed to be sad, but guess what?

I am also happy.

I have learned so much from this experience, and even feel like this whole situation has been a blessing in disguise.

I have been able to spend more time focusing on my relationships and myself. I have learned to cherish the moments in the now rather than constantly thinking of the future and what my next move is going to be. And I’ve been able to catch up on all the Netflix shows that I never had the time to watch!

With COVID-19 still changing our world, I know that my graduate school experience will probably be different, but I’m looking forward to starting classes soon. That’s because I know the future isn’t guaranteed: we’re here now – so enjoy it.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned since spring break, it is definitely to take advantage of the free time that you have in this current situation and turn it into something that you will appreciate in the future. There will always be time to work, eat and shop, but if we ever have a pandemic again (hopefully not), we should focus on what matters most to us.