Class of COVID

CLASS OF COVID: Pooja Tewari

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The Class of COVID series allows graduating students the opportunity to say goodbye to SMU in a non-traditional way and reflect on what it’s like to graduate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Seniors who wish to contribute can send submissions to agmcclure@smu.edu.

By: Pooja Tewari

This is not how I thought my last semester of college would go.

Right now, I should be spending my days sipping a cup of tea, watching a picturesque sunset settle across the beautiful city of London. However, about a month ago, I was recalled back to the United States because of COVID-19. It’s a twisted irony: I was doing a health practice and policy program, which got involuntarily terminated because of a pandemic.

Pooja having afternoon tea in London.
Pooja having afternoon tea in London. Photo credit: Vanessa Carollo

I will admit that at first, I was disappointed and angry. I had put so much time, effort, and stress into getting all the components of my study abroad program in place – especially the financial aid. It was disheartening that all the work that went into putting this program together would not be fulfilled.

However, I enjoyed the time that I did have. I learned to get more comfortable in my environment and I put myself out of my comfort zone. I had gotten a handle on my academics, built a support network in London, and kept in touch with my support network at home. When I got the recall email on a Saturday night, I was shocked.

SMU was one of the first universities to recall its students abroad. So, while my program participants were confused as to why I was seemingly giving up the chance to continue studying abroad, I felt like I did not have a choice. When I felt like I had to choose between my health and safety or continuing to explore and travel, I felt as though my health and safety were more important. Once I got back home to Philly, I was actually grateful that SMU pulled us out early, because I was able to return before the country enacted more travel restrictions.

During quarantine, I have had plenty of time to reflect on my memories at SMU. These past four years were not easy, but I would truly not take them back. I could not imagine my life without the people and support network that I met at SMU.

Pooja with Alayna Bryant, Michelle Branch, Tyler Jackson, and Isaiah Cline, at the 2017 Black Excellence Ball, during her freshman year.
Pooja with Alayna Bryant, Michelle Branch, Tyler Jackson, and Isaiah Cline, at the 2017 Black Excellence Ball, during her freshman year. Photo credit: Pooja Tewari

While at SMU, I joined and held leadership roles in many organizations such as Alternative Breaks, Indian Student Association (ISA), Mustang Emergency Medical Services, Connect and, most importantly, the multicultural sorority Sigma Lambda Gamma (SLG).

Pooja with Sarah Subramanian and Siddhakshi Solanki at the 2017 Indian Student Association’s Diwali function, during her sophomore year.
Pooja with Sarah Subramanian and Siddhakshi Solanki at the 2017 Indian Student Association’s Diwali function, during her sophomore year. Photo credit: Pooja Tewari

Being a woman of color at SMU was challenging. Sometimes I was literally one of three persons of color in a class of 30+ students. Moments like that made it difficult to find my place – until I joined SLG. Thanks to SLG, I felt empowered, respect for my culture, and proud of who I was becoming.

Pooja with her sorority sisters at the SLG New Member Presentation Fall 2019, during her senior year.
Pooja with her sorority sisters at the SLG New Member Presentation Fall 2019, during her senior year. Photo credit: Pooja Tewari

As a multicultural sorority, we emphasize and truly represent diversity. Our smaller size does not detract from our desire to stand out and let the SMU community know that there is a welcoming space for multicultural women. That is why I joined and was grateful to be elected president of our sorority last semester.

Pooja giving a speech as President of SLG at the Fall 2019 Multicultural Greek Council Showcase, during her senior year.
Pooja giving a speech as President of SLG at the Fall 2019 Multicultural Greek Council Showcase, during her senior year. Photo credit: Pooja Tewari

As my “graduation” approaches, I have been thinking about all the memories of SMU that I will miss; I will miss racing to the dessert bar when I would hear the cookie bell at Umph. I will miss eating lunch on Dallas Hall Lawn as if I were part of a postcard. And I will actually miss the long nights of studying with my friends at Fondy. I will miss – and probably regret – going to Mac’s Place every night for weeks straight because I thought Mac’s had the best dining hall food ever. Mostly, I will miss the memories I had at the Multicultural Greek Council House before it was sadly demolished.

I will also miss SMU’s traditions, the memories of which I will always cherish. My favorite SMU tradition was Celebration of Lights. I would enjoy being with my friends, sipping hot chocolate, and waiting in anticipation for the lights to gently brighten Dallas Hall Lawn.

Pooja with members of Sigma Lambda Gamma and Sigma Lambda Beta during Celebration of Lights 2018, during her junior year.
Pooja with members of Sigma Lambda Gamma and Sigma Lambda Beta during Celebration of Lights 2018, during her junior year. Photo credit: Pooja Tewari

I thank SMU for introducing me to Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers my freshman year. There aren’t any Cane’s in the Northeast, and when I was introduced, I quickly became obsessed with what I thought were the best chicken fingers (to the dismay of my friends).

I am grateful for all the professors I have met, especially the ones who have pushed and challenged me because they knew I could achieve bigger and better things after college. It felt like I was part of a community at SMU, and I will truly miss that once I graduate- whether that entails walking across a stage or opening up my diploma once it comes in the mail.

For those SMU students who will not be graduating, please use the time that you have wisely. Yes, I know all seniors usually tell non-graduates to make sure they do not waste their remaining time, but I am serious. Especially since we, the class of 2020, did not get to finish our final semester properly. Even if there are some aspects of SMU you are not a fan of, do not let that deter you. You can use the time you have left to make new memories with your friends or join different clubs and organizations. Your time at SMU is your chance to do anything that you want to do knowing that you have a support network that will always be there.

Thank you, SMU. Pony up!

Pooja Tewari is majoring in Biological Sciences and Health & Society. On campus, organizations that she has taken leadership roles in include Alternative Breaks, Indian Student Association, Mustang Emergency Medical Services, Connect, and Sigma Lambda Gamma. She will attend gradate school this fall to pursue her Masters in Public Health.

The Daily Campus welcomes opinion contributions from students, faculty and community members. Submissions should be no more than 1000 words and are subject to copy editing. Please email submissions to smudailycampus@gmail.com, and include a cell phone number and a short biography.

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