Class of 2020: Reflecting on What We’ve Lost While Cherishing the Community We Have

By Katya Baty



A collage of photos collected from the five seniors interviewed of their favorite photos of UCSB.


The world is grappling with a sense of collective loss during the coronavirus crisis with families affected by the virus directly or indirectly and at all scales from food insecurity and job loss to canceled graduations and summer internships. For UCSB students, life was turned upside down the week before winter quarter finals, and students were left with the difficult decision of where to shelter in place for spring quarter. It became a tougher decision for seniors. Should they stay? Should they go? How did they want to end their college experience and time with friends? Regardless, this meant a loss of many little moments. 


There is nothing like the morning bike ride to school for an early class that you managed to wake up for, biking to school mid-day through the rush hour of people cycling through the roundabouts, walking to the beach in-between class, or watching the cotton-candy clouds as the sun sets over the ocean.  begins to feel like a home and a close-knit community. Even though you will never know everyone, people will always smile or acquaintances and friends alike will wave to each other on walks across campus. Graduating senior studying Political Science and Arabic Studies. 

Senior spring quarter is built up with many expectations and this drastic change has disrupted this anticipated period of life. “This is the time you usually talk to friends about what they're doing and maybe have a sense of your options for where to live after college, but now this all has to be done remotely,” said Doyle. Many seniors, especially from out of state, did not get a chance to say a proper goodbye to friends of four years. 


However, wherever seniors have gone during this unprecedented time, memories of the community in Isla Vista and college experience at UCSB stay with them. As Foley said, “during this time I’ve recognized what we’ve lost, but also what we had.” For many students this has been a time to slow down and reflect on their university experience. Five graduating seniors talk about what they hold dear and how they adjusted during their last quarter before graduating. 

Isla Vista, the two-square mile town next to campus, is an integral part of life at UCSB. It is a unique community made up of mostly college students, local restaurants and markets, and beach access points all along Del Playa and onto campus. UCSB is a school of 20,000 students but as the years go by it begins to feel like a home and a close-knit community. Even though you will never know everyone, people will always smile or acquaintances and friends alike will wave to each other on walks across campus. 


There is nothing like the morning bike ride to school for an early class that you managed to wake up for, biking to school mid-day through the rush hour of people cycling through the round-abouts, walking to the beach in-between class, or watching the cotton-candy clouds as the sun sets over the ocean. 


Uprooting to Head Home


Nicole Schimizu and her housemates all headed back home after it was announced that all of spring quarter would be online. For her being with family during the crisis was an important part of her decision making. “Some aspects of life have become more simple,” she said as she reflected on adapting to life at home. 


Foley has also been living with her parents since the beginning of Spring break. She said,“three years I’ve always put academics before my social life...so I have never been able to do some of the things that are classically Santa Barbaran. These three years had been in expectation of senior year Spring.” She decided to move home for her health but had been hesitant because she really loves being around people her age noting that it helps her stay motivated and engaged. 



Foley said that there is not one big memory that she holds onto rather it is the same memory that happened multiple times. This cherished memory was meeting up with friends to go see the sunset at Devereux Beach. “It is a classic IV tradition,” said Foley, “You always run into friends you know and didn’t have to organize plans to see them. It happened organically.” Foley said that she misses the spontaneity of life. This moment has made her realize how thankful she was for all the times she would walk into CAJE and find that there would be about 10 people she knew or the ringing of bells in Storke tower or discussions in class. “I don’t think there is anywhere else that has a college town like Isla Vista...where people are just celebrating life,” said Foley. 


The Beach Brings Us Together

Avery DeSantis, a first-generation college student graduating in Bioscience with an Art minor, decided to stay in Isla Vista because she felt like it would be the best study environment since she has two other siblings living at home. She said the cancellation of graduation felt like an especially

big loss because no one else in her family has had a college graduation before. Avery said she really values, “all the new adventures and doing things independently...and becoming comfortable with being with yourself during college.” 


When reflecting on college DeSantis said, “UCSB as a whole is a really great community. The thing we all have in common is that we like to go and enjoy the beach.” It is what brings the community together. Another senior Miranda O’Brien, studying Environmental Studies, said that this time has allowed her to recognize and appreciate all the natural beauty that is at UCSB. Erin Barto, another graduating in Environmental Science said that her favorite memory was paddling out to see the bioluminescence during this year and her Sophomore year of college. An experience that is an added benefit of living by the coast of California. 


Patchwork Community and Diversity


Clare Doyle is now living in Los Angeles with her sister after almost two months of quarantine in Isla Vista. She decided to move out of Isla Vista because her lease was up and Los Angeles was the closest thing to home since both of her parents live out of state. “When people decided to go home it was really difficult because I would go to my sister but she had not finished up graduate school yet,” said Doyle. Additionally, after two months she knew a lot of people who had left Isla Vista. 


“UCSB has been such an experience,” said Doyle. She misses being able to walk less than a mile to great local businesses such as the Isla Vista Food Co-Op. She also reflects on the beauty of the campus, amazing weather, many events, and outdoor activities such as biking every day. “I can remember the first time meeting people and you wouldn’t know that a few years later you would be good friends and I think that that is really the point of college,” said Doyle, “you will run into people and people all play a role in your life.” She remembers and values the moments in which unexpected plans took her out of her routine like spontaneous trips to Lizard’s Mouth or when she was at HSSB with professors and fellow students at night after a conference talking for hours. 


There is something for everyone at UCSB and “Isla Vista is a cool community where you can find potlucks, painting nights, surfing, Jesus burgers, EDM parties, or live music shows in someone’s front yard. There are such different little pockets...it is like a patchwork of communities all living in the same area,” said Doyle. 


Finding Connection and Community While Apart


Each senior has found ways to stay connected with friends and family through social media or the good old fashion phone call. They have adjusted things like their internship work and found creative ways to stay motivated to finish out school. O’Brien has not been able to go home because she has a family member who is immunocompromised. “It’s been six months since I’ve been home,” said O’Brien. However, she has been able to stay connected through Facetime and Zoom calls as well as socially distanced walks. For some seniors, like Barto, quarantine has actually brought her family closer together by talking more frequently. They schedule weekly Pictionary games and Jackbox game nights. For other seniors like Doyle, Facetiming was a regular way to stay connected with family before social distancing since they were spread throughout the U.S. and even Europe but now she has made it a routine to call friends as well. “It is a nice adjustment to Facetime with friends I wouldn’t usually call,” said Doyle. 



“UCSB has been such an experience,” said Doyle. She misses being able to walk less than a mile to great local businesses such as the Isla Vista Food Co-Op. She also reflects on the beauty of the campus, amazing weather, many events, and outdoor activities such as biking every day. “I can remember the first time meeting people and you wouldn’t know that a few years later you would be good friends and I think that that is really the point of college,” said Doyle, “you will run into people and people all play a role in your life.” She remembers and values the moments in which unexpected plans took her out of her routine like spontaneous trips to Lizard’s Mouth or when she was at HSSB with professors and fellow students at night after a conference talking for hours.  



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