The COVID Class Chronicles

How it started/how it’s going, in the words of seven seniors.

July 9, 2024

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illustration of our seven frosh at Stanford

Illustration by Franziska Barcyzk

For the Class of 2024, senior year included appreciation for the little things. Watching TV with suitemates. Playing a nightly game of Bananagrams in their co-op. Wandering the aisles of CVS with friends, picking out snacks. This was, after all, the cohort that entered Stanford in 2020, attending classes virtually and, in most cases, living off campus. Stanford has been following seven members of the class ever since. 

Three of the seven—Logan Berzins (economics with a minor in data science), Eva Orozco (international relations with a minor in human rights), and Kevin Thor (Asian American studies)—graduated in June. Sala Ba (mechanical engineering), Elena Recaldini (computer science), and Jenna Reed (political science) will stay an additional year to earn master’s degrees—Sala and Elena in their undergraduate fields of study, and Jenna in public policy. Stacey Lubag, who has been considering medical school since sophomore year and made a final decision to pursue it last fall, will finish her bachelor’s in design and pack in a few more premed requirements.

Stacey: As a daughter of immigrants, I was very hesitant about the whole stereotype of what your parents want—for you to go to med school. I think the only part of me that didn’t want to do that was the part of me that was contrarian. I realized that even though it was my parents’ dream, it was also my own. I think this year has been absolutely my best year on campus yet. I’m really grateful that I have more time, because if this was my last year, I would be so sad to leave.

Photo of Stacey Lubag

Jenna: I’m the baby of my family. All the grandparents, aunts, and my parents, honestly almost more than me, harbor bitterness that they didn’t get to see my high school graduation. There’s just even more excitement than usual to get to see Wacky Walk or see me actually getting my degree.

Photo of Jenna Reed

They’re still influenced by their unusual introduction to college, whether that involved Zooming into class at 3:30 a.m. (Elena), living in special-circumstances housing with social distancing (Kevin), or quarantining before joining the football bubble (Logan).

Eva: My joke answer is that they created a legion of people who are tired of the word unprecedented. I don’t think I’ve used that word in any of my papers this entire time I’ve been here, just because of how much it traumatized me that year. 

Photo of Eva Orozco

Sala: It was a dark crucible when we first got to know Stanford. When I got here as a senior, I was like, “Oh my God, I’m older than everybody else.” These kids don’t remember the mandatory twice-a-week testing. People don’t remember outdoor functions we had to go to because all the Row houses were closed and couldn’t throw parties. 

Photo of Sala Ba

Stacey: They’re gaining these traditions back that we didn’t have. We’re kind of playing this catch-up game. But I’m a very big believer that everything happens the way it does for a reason, and I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for being part of the COVID year. 

Being a part of that virtual year has brought a pretty strong foundation for all of us. I think we had this underlying sense of empathy for each other in that way. 

Logan: There’s a little bit of a gap in visibility of what actually happened and the hardships people went through. I think it’s important to know we were getting put in hotels for weeks at a time, just, like, sitting by ourselves doing nothing, just to play the sport we love.

Photo of Logan Berzins

Jenna: I find myself talking to some of my underclassmen friends, and they’ll be like, “Oh, what freshman dorm were you in?” And I was like, “I wasn’t in a freshman dorm.” I think there’s just a kind of asterisk.

Nonetheless, they each found their Stanford. 

Elena: I have my crowd. I know what I like to do on campus. I know all the spots that I like. I feel very domesticated, if that makes any sense. 

Photo of Elena Ricaldini

I’m in Xanadu. The Row is just a beautiful place to be. I can just go from front porch to front porch and kind of socialize with others. When it’s sunny outside, everyone’s sunbathing on the grass in front of the houses. 

Kevin: I am being OK with not having to uphold myself to other people’s expectations. I think that’s a big breakthrough for me. 

Photo of Kevin Thor

I live in Kairos, which is a co-op on the Row. And I literally love it. I’ve been able to find such a close, tight-knit community. I just feel so loved. Kairos is a queer, BIPOC, art-centered co-op. It’s funny because I catch myself saying “Oh, I’m going back home” instead of “going back to Kairos,” which I think is very significant as well. 

Eva: My pronouns changed. I use they/them pronouns. Today, my grandma sent a text where she used the right pronouns for somebody who uses they/them pronouns, and I was like, “Oh yes!” My family has been really great with everything. That’s something I’m really lucky to have.

Sala: I feel like I’m a lot more introverted now because I’ve settled into this comfortable space. I’m definitely more laid-back, more chill. I think I figured out what I want out of Stanford and what Stanford is to me. Everyone is kind of stressed but at the same time chilling. And everyone is super passionate about something.

Elena: I feel like Stanford’s overall quirky vibe still exists. That hasn’t changed at all. It was kind of maybe dampened a little bit by COVID. But it’s all around. There is this unique Stanford alchemy that carries through.

Logan: I would go straight to motivation and adaptability. Every single Stanford student is going to make the necessary adjustments. To the core is a strong spirit that they’re going to drive to be the best and nothing’s going to get in the way.

Studying abroad was a breath of fresh air.

Eva: I went to Chile to practice Spanish, which felt really great for me because I grew up hearing it in my household but kind of stopped speaking it around the house.

We got to do Patagonia and the Atacama Desert. It was really cool to see those two kinds of biomes. This was the first time that snow actually fell on me. 

Elena: Going to Oxford was always my dream growing up. Then I decided to come to Stanford, but I still had that yearning to go to Oxford. I really, really like the old Gothic architecture. I think study abroad always brings you closer to your cohort, even if you don’t know anyone there, just because you’re in a completely new place. 

Several plan to continue their education. While Sala was serving on a committee that interviewed prospective faculty members, she realized she wanted to pursue a PhD. Kevin hopes to earn a master’s in Asian American studies.

Sala: It was a window into PhD life because I could ask questions about teaching and research. I was like, “Wait, this is kind of interesting. This sounds kind of cool.” 

Kevin: I’ve been adopting the idea that the world is my oyster. I’m not quite sure what the future agenda is. I can do a lot of things. As long as I apply myself to it, I know I can.

“A four-year-long summer camp.”

Elena: I’m from Tokyo. I’m from a hard-core city. Coming here, it’s what I envision American kids’ summer camp would be. The palm trees and the warm environment, and everyone’s always outside. It was like I attended a four-year-long summer camp. And it was great.

Sala: By the time my class finally got to Stanford, most of the upperclassmen who were supposed to maintain traditions were mourning the Stanford that could have been, because the last time they experienced Stanford was when they were the freshmen and sophomores. So, instead of having a Stanford experience made for me, I had to forge it myself, which ended up working out in the sense that I had to learn what I liked and wanted in order to figure out what I wanted to get out of Stanford. I had to do a lot of self-growth.

Stacey: No matter what I do, I will always be fine, both academically here at Stanford and for what Stanford sets me up for beyond. I am not afraid at all. •

Christine Foster is a writer in Connecticut. Email her at stanford.magazine@stanford.edu.

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