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Columns, Opinions

Eduard Muñoz-Suñé: How the pandemic expanded my perception of success after college

By
Guest Columnist
Monday, May 25, 2020
This article is part of the series Commencement Magazine 2020

The coronavirus has radically changed the last three months of my college experience by ending in-person classes, making me leave campus and postponing my graduation. For all of us in the class of 2020, the pandemic has created new obstacles that we could not have foreseen. Many of us will struggle to find jobs right out of college. Many of us will have to make hard choices about spending. And I believe it will take far longer for all of us to achieve our goals.

Though it has definitely disrupted much of my world, the pandemic has also provided me an opportunity to question how I had defined postgraduate success and to think critically about my future. 

Before, it seemed all too easy to get caught up in the frenzy of securing prestigious internships during college and high-powered, high-paying jobs directly after. And though there is nothing wrong with those types of jobs, the coronavirus has really reminded me — and I hope others in the class of 2020 — that there are so many other roles that matter. For example, working for a non-profit, volunteering or even just taking some time to really think about what you want to do with your life all are perfectly reasonable post-college outcomes. While many people might agree with this, it seems important to me to remind everyone in the class of 2020 that less conventionally successful ways of spending the months or years after graduating from Brown are admirable, especially in the wake of the coronavirus.

The virus has urged me to consider that what might seem prestigious now might not mean much later. It has made me think that right now might not be the time to rush without thinking into the job that pays the most or the job that people expect me to take. It may never be that time again. This is not to say that traditionally prestigious jobs are bad or that the coronavirus has changed my perception of those industries. It has rather reminded me that there are so many other possible outcomes that should be considered as successes. 

In addition, the coronavirus has exposed enormous faults in the global system, which I knew existed, but it has made many of its issues impossible for me to ignore. It has shattered the comfortable “Brown Bubble” that I, and many of my classmates, inhabited. And it has reminded me that it’s important to recognize the world that lies outside of Brown and to remember my responsibility to it.

The pandemic has shown that whom we elect as leaders, for example, is not just a topic of spirited intellectual debate but a crucially important decision that all citizens need to make. So even though I don’t particularly engage in or like politics, I have a fundamental responsibility to inform myself and to vote. Similarly, though I don’t expect to work in journalism (though I did work at The Herald during my time at Brown), the truth matters, and it is important that newspapers and other news outlets are equipped to uncover it and share what they find.

I still do not know how the coronavirus will change the course of my life or those of my classmates, but I do know that I will proceed with a new understanding of our responsibilities to each other. This does not necessarily mean working for a nonprofit or public service, but it is reasonable for myself, and hopefully other members of the class of 2020, to bear in mind our responsibility to educate ourselves about the world and to invest in the challenges that it faces.

Even though it has made my last few months radically different from what I expected, the coronavirus has gifted me with one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned during my four years at Brown: It is essential that we care about the world and contribute to improving its future. I hope the pandemic has offered similar realizations to my classmates on College Hill and across the world. 

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