Karina Alvarado ’20
Karina Alvarado ’20
Photo provided by Sandra Riaño ’21

A Different Kind of Senior Year

Jennifer E. Garrett ’98
August 7, 2020

Karina Alvarado ’20 spent most of the second semester of her senior year in her dorm on campus. Which, in any other year, would be a fairly typical occurrence—who didn’t hole up in their room, frantically trying to finish a senior project or thesis, while also trying to polish a résumé and find a job? But this year, the College closed its doors in March, sending most students out into the wide, wide world a little earlier than usual.

Around 180 students, however, remained on campus for a variety of reasons, from uncertain home conditions to visa issues. With social-distancing measures in place, Alvarado and other students holed up in their rooms—or relocated to new ones—to finish out the semester in a different way. But some things remain the same: Alvarado still had to finish that senior project. As a cinema and media studies major, she had her final art project all planned out. “It was a photo project that was supposed to be printed and displayed on windows in Pendleton West,” Alvarado says. “I was in the initial stages of printing, and all of that got shut down.”

Although photography is her usual medium, she was forced to pivot when she no longer had access to the studios and other resources on campus. “I decided to change my medium to painting and drawing,” Alvarado says. “That’s an area that I have zero experience with, zero background in. It’s definitely been fun to try out something new.” Diving into something new was just one of the ways that she coped with this unprecedented experience. Although most of her time was spent in her dorm room—classes were held there via computer, and meals were (usually) picked up and taken back there—she did get out to enjoy the campus when she could. “It’s definitely very calming to take a walk every once in a while and take some time to breathe and get away from screens,” Alvarado says.

During those walks, she balanced the old with the new. “Campus is really big,” she laughs, and during the hustle of a regular semester, she stuck to the well-worn paths. But during the last part of the semester, she’s ventured into spaces she’d never noticed before. “There’s a field that’s right by the Science Center, and there are actually stairs that lead to it that are kind of hidden,” she says. “I found it during one of my walks, and it’s really beautiful.” As a content creator for the Communications and Public Affairs Office, Alvarado got to share that beauty through her photography. “I really enjoy the work, because I’ve always wanted to engage with people,” she says. “I realized that I love doing creative work, and this role has really helped me push [that].”

Her role as co-president of Mezcla drove home the importance of engaging with and helping people. Although the campus was (mostly) empty, her work with Mezcla continued, as the group tried to support students virtually and devise ways to reach out to prospective students. These experiences helped focus her career thoughts, because despite the uncertainty of the world, some time-honored senior traditions continue, including the job search. In February, she began applying for digital marketing jobs with content-creating roles.

There were a few other senior traditions she got to participate in, as well, even if the timeline was a little … rushed. Once the closure was official, the senior class scrambled to create the parting moments other classes got to experience over months. Hooprolling, Stepsinging, and commencement were all packed into one Saturday in March. “I was still in a state of shock,” she says. “I had not processed what was going on.” During the improvised commencement ceremony, Alvarado broke down in tears. “It’s a little sad that I won’t be able to have that moment to celebrate with my family, but it was really nice to still be able to have that moment with my friends.”

This is article by Jennifer E. Garrett ’98 appears in the summer 2020 issue of Wellesley magazine. Read more on the Wellesley magazine website.