My Last College Semester Was Cancelled, But I’m Grateful

What happens when college suddenly ends without proper goodbyes. 

Amanda Dettmann
Senior year. PHOTO Amanda Dettmann

I always preached “living in the moment” to everybody around me. To friends, family, even my colleagues working at art galleries or teaching programs.

But I never really practiced it. I never really knew what it meant before this virus spread throughout the world.

As a senior at college, two weeks ago was my last week of in-person classes and in-person interaction on campus. None of us knew this at the time. There was a tentative extended spring break scheduled, but we hoped so hard that we’d be able be back on campus, especially for the remainder of our senior year. A school closing seemed absolutely impossible.

Now we face reality apart. I’m back in Maine with my family and dogs, and my goodbyes from two weeks ago don’t feel like real goodbyes. Although I regret how I spent my last week (studying for midterms rather than hanging out with friends for the last time), I have continually had to remember ~ Be kind to yourself.

We didn’t know this would happen. And we can use this as an opportunity right now to move forward in the future with open hearts. Treating everything as if it were the last time. Yes, studies matter. But to balance this with creating connections is undeniably one of the most important things in our lifetime. A lesson I have now learned.

Here’s to all college seniors:

We share a unique bond unlike anyone else. I don’t mean to lessen the amount of tragedy the world is facing right now with lives on the line and medical persona working around the clock (my dad included as a doctor).

But college seniors as a group have had their entire world shut down in the blink of an eye, in a time that is so rare and young and free. No closure. No hugs. No laughter eating a Rossi’s panini on the edge of the boat dock for the last time. Because the last one was the last time (for now).

We will be back. Stronger than ever. I love you all, and I am here for you.

To my crazy class of 2020: Thank you for all the times I will never forget. From grabbing lunch at Lola’s and eating those otherworldly Thai peanut noodles to experiencing the Hudson River Walkway in autumn as if we were on top of the world. To all our theatre performances on the Nelly Goletti stage and the bows we held hands for. To all the iced coffee and hot soup Thursdays sitting in the big comfy chairs in Hancock with Suzanne (our favorite barista who is the kindest soul I’ve ever met). To walking together to class for those early 8 ams with untied laces and studying together until 2 am with a bottle of wine. To making slushies in the freshly fallen snow. To studying abroad in the hills of London and countless Shakespeare performances at The Globe. To Halloween at Mahoney’s and a 21st birthday in Florence I will never take for granted. To door decs and amazing RAs. To working our butts off. To putting it all on the line and producing art that we laughed and cried over. To professors that have seriously changed my life and made me more human, more vulnerable, and more thankful.

We might not have had the full time, but we will always have the time we spent together. Four incredible years. So much growth. More confidence. And feeling like we can now conquer anything. Thank you everyone for my college experience. You shaped me into who I am today.

Amanda Dettmann
Freshman year. PHOTO Amanda Dettmann

To the incoming freshmen:

I challenge you to make the most of your time. Now we really know what this means, and that our reality can change faster than a blink of the eye. Welcome everybody new who arrives. Tell them you support them. Invite them on crazy fun adventures throughout the Poughkeepsie and Rhinebeck area. And keep spreading joy to all you meet.

A pandemic poem is below. I hope you are all able to spend this time with family, and just remember we are forever strong. We can get through this. And every moment will be so lived in, loudly and beautifully and filled with infinite gratitude.

Sending all my love,


Withhold toilet paper, withhold feminine hygiene products, withhold
the names we never say out loud: tampons, pads, menstrual cups, withhold the punch
to the pregnant lady’s eardrum by the baking aisle, withhold his ability to take
and not hand over, withhold her sound, the side of her cheek landing
on flushed pillowcase at home, at home alone, withhold sleep
withhold presidential address vs. speak to US, withhold answers and 8:00 am SATs and
the little boy eating a salt bagel in public, lips smeared with rosemary cream cheese looking up,
withhold that bite of full wonder—
                                                            withhold planes,
stay right where you are ya filthy animal, watch Kevin McCallister feed the birds in march
watch the holds, the hand soap, the cheerios stockpiled for elderly couples with
heart tremors doctors please watch them, watch the doctors, they, too, are risking it all
let us hold them like handclaps in hospitals, gloved, where we choose to be loud
over being ripped rubber because we are together, never void or voiceless
graduating in our dead grass backyards, a senior class still feeling young,
withhold it all ending, drunk cast parties, coffee runs and diner dinners
withhold the jobs, the internships, the songs in a rotunda hidden like Time,
a fortune predictor saying this will happen again in 2030.
“Short-lived pandemic, muscles aching” it reads
hold in
tension, holding within that cry our grandparents held
in world war II, potato famines, earthquakes so big the boundless births were shook
Withhold your ability to get up
and move on. I say cry. Damn it,
cry a lot. It is not dramatic to spill yourself out
and see others overflowing.
You don’t have to run
to be a warrior.

Smell the cigarette smoke from the man on the corner.
                        we are feeling the same thing.
                        a kind of burning.
                        we are both learning
                        how to release

Amanda Dettmann


Amanda is an avid traveler who calls Maine her home, but her favorite places include Amsterdam's Christmas markets and Shakespeare's Globe in London. She is passionate about poetry, theatre, and teaching writing to kids and adults with disabilities. She thinks the best part of traveling is hearing strangers' incredible stories. Her ultimate mission? To find the tastiest cappuccino in the world.

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