By Jessica Welner
In the past several months of 2020, our world has been altered due to a major pandemic. COVID-19 came in full swing in the United States with cases topping in the millions. Locally, UCF took the proper precautions by closing its doors the end of the spring semester. Life has changed since the last time students attended classes on campus.
I interviewed Josh Gluck, a recent UCF graduate, about his experiences amidst the pandemic. Josh majored in entertainment management at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management. He is an aspiring musician.
Readying myself for the interview, I sat down on my office chair in the bedroom at my house and shut the door so there were no distractions. I opened my computer and called Josh on FaceTime. We casually chatted about how his graduation was affected by COVID-19, and how the virus had halted his post-graduation plans.
Once we familiarized ourselves with each other, I began the interview by asking him a couple questions regarding his socially distant and virtual graduation.
Jessica: You just graduated from UCF. What was it like to have a graduation without an actual ceremony?
Josh: Well, pretty much as you can imagine. Very weird. Yeah, really weird. Not at all what I expected, ever. Honestly, it was kind of nice. An actual ceremony or graduation, I guess can be hectic and everybody’s running around. My virtual graduation was at 9 a.m. My mom, my dad, my brother, and I went downstairs. We turned on the virtual graduation ceremony. We had mimosas together. We just enjoyed each other’s company. I did a Zoom call with my extended family. It was not what I was expecting, but I would not have traded it for an actual ceremony. It was really special. The achievement of graduating college is what mattered the most to me. It was still weird going through this experience but it was really nice.
Jessica: What was like having a virtual graduation?
Josh: It was pretty funny. I give props to UCF because they did a phenomenal job. I am sure that it was sprung onto them just as much as it was sprung onto us. With the amount of time that they had to make these decisions, I think they did a great job transferring it over to the virtual environment. There really was not much of a difference. You know, the speeches and reading off the names. Essentially, everything was all the same. You are just not in a room filled with thousands of people.
After we finished talking about virtual graduation, I asked Josh about going online during his final semester at UCF.
Josh: Totally. I definitely feel like transferring over to virtual classes was a bit stressful. I felt like I had a bigger workload. As soon as we went virtual, I noticed how my workload increased versus my workload that I had while I was attending classes on campus. One of my classes in particular, production management, was taught by David John. He took the initiative to make videos. I have never done all online classes before so it was different for me. Most of my classes bounced back and added some things to the virtual environment that were cool.
Jessica: Was it odd going from attending classes on campus to them going fully online for the remainder of the spring semester?
Jessica: Did any of your professors hold any Zoom sessions? How did it feel to have class over video chat?
Josh: For those of you who have not used Zoom before, you have the ability to change your background. I cannot tell you how many of us were changing our backgrounds. One of my friends was at the Miami Heat stadium. I was in the iCarly studio. This show, The Office, has a room where everybody is interviewed and you can see the window. You can see Stanley in the background, so I used it. I have been learning in classrooms for the majority of my life, so I thought it was a cool change of pace.
After we discussed his final semester at UCF, I asked him how the coronavirus has affected his friendships and mental health.
Jessica: How did you stay in contact with your friends during the stay-at-home order that took place in the beginning of April?
Josh: It was and still is important to check-in with friends here and there. It has been nice to reach out to people from time to time. I have had a few FaceTime conversations with friends. I have had FaceTime dinners with my friends.
We will both be having dinner and say “Okay, let’s have dinner together.” We will put our phones up against a water bottle and eat dinner together. One of my friends and I did a painting with Bob Ross over FaceTime. We painted together at the same pace and showed our finished paintings to each other. I am close with my friends and my family. It has been important to stay in touch with them.
Jessica: Has COVID-19 affected your mental health?
Josh: Yes, definitely. It has caused anxiety, confusion, a little bit of depression. It has always been like that for me but especially during this time. I find peace being in nature. What I have been doing is going to a trail or a nature preserve. I will walk two miles down a trail and then set up my hammock. I will bring a sandwich to eat and just hangout. With the negative emotions that COVID-19 has brought, it has brought me peace and solitude. Having the ability to go in a forest for a couple hours is something that has become a blessing for me.
Next, I asked him about his career plans and how the music industry has been reeling from the sudden change of pace.
Jessica: What did you want to do after you graduated college? How has the coronavirus affected those plans?
Josh: Basically, after I graduated, not to get too deep into plans, but I was ready to move out of Florida. I had a couple of things set up already in Nashville. I was just about to close in on an apartment and then of course, everything changed. I had a job opportunity, a couple of things pertaining to music that would have been really awesome. Things change and now I am still here in Orlando. If something is meant to be then it is meant to be. Maybe this whole experience has put me in a different direction.
Jessica: Do you think the industry has taken a huge hit because of the pandemic?
Josh: I would say hospitality has, because entertainment in my eyes falls under hospitality. Every industry has taken a hit. Every industry all over the world is struggling and finding ways to recover from the pandemic. I would say that the entertainment industry is one of those that took a massive hit. It was a curveball that none of us anticipated. A lot of entertainment is not in person or live, but the event industry has become a whirlwind of craziness.
Lastly, I asked him questions relating to how COVID-19 will affect future graduates. I also asked him if he had any advice for students who have been hit hard by the pandemic.
Jessica: Do you believe that COVID-19 will affect future graduates, like myself?
Josh: I think that the virus will affect mindsets the most. It has effects everywhere but I think that one thing that could be a definite thing that will affect people like you, people that are graduating soon or a couple years from now, is that the mindset is going be something that will continue to change.
What you are seeing right now is that there was a whole class of people around the world. They were ready for this new chapter of their lives. Many of us had jobs lined up and other things lined up. Now, all of sudden, everything changed. I want to say this. Whatever it is you are planning to do after graduation, make it something you love. Make it something that you are passionate about. If you are focused on something you are passionate about, nothing will stop you from reaching that goal.
Jessica: Okay, last question. Do you have any advice for students who have been affected by the pandemic?
Josh: Yes. I am only, what, 22 years old? I just graduated college. I am young. I do not know much, but from experience, what I would like to say to my graduating class of 2020 is this: It is possible that this could have been a good thing. I know it has not all been a good thing. There has been a bad side to our situation but there is good that has come out of it as well.
What I mean by this is that maybe some of us were ready to hop into a job we did not like or care enough about. Now, we are at a halt. We are forced to reevaluate what it is that we want to do with our lives. Focus on what you truly want to do with your life. That is a little bit of light out of this dark situation.