Advice from the Class of 2020

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Leah Allen '22

Several members of the Class of 2020 had atypical college experiences this year and offered advice to the current seniors on navigating their upcoming freshman year.

As the school year comes to a close, Sacred Heart Greenwich must part with its current seniors.  Although the Class of 2021 will not return to King Street this September, they will continue to receive support from both past and present members of the school community.  Three recent alumnae from the Class of 2020 spoke with the King Street Chronicle to offer words of advice to this year’s graduating class.

Many members of last year’s senior class spent the year adapting to new challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.  Courtesy of Ms. Rachel Zurheide

The coronavirus pandemic brought about drastic changes to various aspects of the college experience this past year.  With changes in the college admissions process and the transition towards virtual and hybrid learning options, many students experienced atypical freshman years at their respective colleges.  Approximately 55 percent of American universities shifted to a blend of online and in-person classes this year while 23 percent of college campuses closed completely and offered only virtual instruction, according to collegedata.com.

Ms. Sydney Kim ’20 spent the majority of her freshman year at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) off campus while attending virtual classes.  As an Ocean Engineering major, Ms. Kim has been taking classes in Terrascope, a first-year learning community at MIT that focuses on the environment and sustainability.  Her time in the Terrascope program gave her the opportunity to learn more about the Earth and meet other students with similar interests along with informing her choice of major.  She is grateful for the supportive community that she developed with her classmates, despite the distance.  Ms. Kim urged this year’s graduating seniors to find strong communities of their own as she believes it will be beneficial to them when adjusting to their new environments, regardless of their first-year experiences.

“Through Terrascope, I have learned that community transcends place,” Ms. Kim said.  “Last semester, I was surprised to see that my class could still share experiences and build friendships, despite being scattered across the world.  Terrascope has also helped me recognize the value of community.  It was challenging for me to go from Sacred Heart, where everyone knew each other, to a virtual version of MIT, where everyone was a stranger.  Although I hope that the Class of 2021 will have a more normal first-year college experience than I did, I would still recommend finding a supportive community.  It can help with the transition to college, and it can be really rewarding.”

Ms. Kim also spoke of her own experience at Sacred Heart and the lessons she learned that stayed with her throughout her first year away from King Street.

“Of all the lessons I learned at Sacred Heart, there are two that I feel have most impacted my life in the past year,” Ms. Kim said.  “The first is to believe in myself.  I’m not sure I would have been able to see this a year ago, but my teachers at Sacred Heart were constantly encouraging me and telling me to believe in myself.  The second lesson is not to be afraid of making mistakes.  These two lessons have shaped my mindset throughout this year.  To the Class of 2021, remember to believe in yourselves, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes and step outside of your comfort zone.”

To the Class of 2021, remember to believe in yourselves, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes and step outside of your comfort zone.”

— Ms. Sydney Kim '20

Ms. Sally Carter ’20, former Student Body President and Sacred Heart lifer, just finished her freshman year at Boston College.  Ms. Carter, who spent 15 years at Sacred Heart, has stayed connected with the wider school network.  She makes an effort to stay in touch with her former classmates, seven of whom also attend Boston College, and was also able to connect with some of her current peers who attended the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland.  Ms. Carter credits Sacred Heart for teaching her how to reach out to teachers, a skill that has been beneficial during her first year of college.  Her overall advice for the Class of 2021 is to remain involved and connected with the school community, while also branching out and embracing new opportunities in the fall.

“One piece of advice I have for the graduating class is to always check in on their friends and sisters from Sacred Heart,” Ms. Carter said.  “You don’t realize how much you will miss those little hallway interactions and the friends you made in your classes, so make sure that you keep each other updated.  Another piece of advice I have is to not close yourself off to opportunities.  Make sure you join clubs and make friends with people you meet everywhere, whether it’s in the bathroom, your hall, or classes.  Everyone is in the same boat, so it never hurts to be extra nice to your fellow freshman.”

Ms. Zada Brown ’20 spent her first semester at Yale University living on campus and is now learning virtually for the spring semester.  Ms. Brown made an effort to involve herself in the school community, despite coronavirus restrictions, serving as the Co-Publicity Chair for Steppin’ Out, the University’s Step team, and the Alumni Coordinator for the Yale Gospel Choir.  Her involvement in these groups helped her connect with her new classmates and taught her the importance of adapting and finding joy during this unprecedented year.  Her advice for the senior class is to embrace the new experiences that college will offer them and to connect with and learn from peers.

Ms. Zada Brown ’20 advises members of the Class of 2021 to embrace the nuances of their college experiences next year, and adapt to challenges that may arise.  Courtesy of Ms. Zada Brown ’20

“A lesson that has been helpful for me in college is not judging anyone by how they first appear,” Ms. Brown said.  “Sacred Heart is like a little fishbowl, but over the years we have all learned to see the beauty in all of the fish around us.  College is going to be an ocean, and you are going to see many fish that you have never seen before.  They look different, like different activities, speak or dress differently, but they are still beautiful fish, just like the ones at Sacred Heart.  Take a chance on them, accept them for all their quirks, and you might just find a friend for life.”

In addition, Ms. Brown’s hope for the Class of 2021 is that they savor each small moment of joy and connection that they will experience in the next year.  Given the challenges the coronavirus pandemic presented this year, she found value in prioritizing her own happiness.

“Be grateful for every moment of happiness and community because they can slip away so easily,” Ms. Brown said.  “When I was having dance parties with my friends in the Core Center during my senior year, I never imagined that not even a year later, I would be taking exams, writing essays, and spending the Spring semester of my freshman year in my childhood bedroom.  Even as the world is beginning to open back up, make time for community and connection in your busy lives.  Write your essay tomorrow, go out and get lunch with your friend today.  Take a walk to a new part of town even if you don’t think it will be fun.  We will all have responsibilities that force our lives in certain directions, but the sisterhood you have experienced at Sacred Heart should teach you to never underestimate how big a difference friendship and community can make.  Savor these moments and be grateful for them.”

Featured Image by Leah Allen ’22