By Abby Penzenstadler, MFU intern and senior at the University of Minnesota
Four years ago, I chose to attend the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities to pursue a degree in Agricultural Communications and Marketing. Unlike most, my college decision was easy when I discovered the hidden gem of the small, yet lively St. Paul campus, filled with many agricultural enthusiasts like myself.
They say college is the best four years of your life and that couldn’t be any truer. I’ve met my best friends, mentors and colleagues here. I continued my vast, over-involved lifestyle with Lambda Delta Phi Sorority, Block and Bridle, Minnesota Royal, and the collegiate livestock judging circuit. I’ve held countless jobs and internships. I’ve walked through immense challenges and came out more prepared for the real world.
Heading into my final semester this spring, there was so much excitement in the air. Everyone tells you to enjoy your ‘lasts’ and that was certainly my plan. My course load was dwindling down. I started a new internship with Minnesota Farmers Union. I was preparing for my final term as Events Chair for our St. Paul campus homecoming, Minnesota Royal. I was beginning my endeavor to (hopefully) land my dream job post college. And of course, dreaming about my graduation ceremony to officially close the door on the past 16 years of education.
Flash forward and my senior year has been completely turned upside down. When I left for a spring break trip to Texas with my family, I never expected to return to such uncertainty and sadness. My classes would begin with distance learning completely online until April 1. With optimism, I began my first day of remote school, only to receive an additional email that online learning would continue through the rest of the school year and my graduation ceremony postponed for the time being.
These times are unprecedented and I applaud my university officials for taking the appropriate steps with such urgency, paving the way for other Midwest schools. However, I can’t help but grieve the loss of my senior year. No goodbyes, no ‘lasts’; just an empty, eerie campus.
Now, my biggest worry is about job prospects, post-pandemic. This summer, I will be continuing my Facilities Coordinator internship with Minnesota 4-H at the Minnesota State Fair. I’m thankful for the opportunity to continue serving an organization, and event, that were so prominent in my childhood. Come September, all I can hope is that I’ll find my way into a career where I can continue advocating and supporting the future of agriculture.
Sure, I’ll still graduate and receive my diploma, but in an untraditional way. I’ll celebrate alongside my family, commemorating my years of education and reminiscing on the memories and unforgettable college life.
For now, I’m finding my ground back at home, tending to livestock and the farm while navigating this new remote learning which has been surprisingly manageable. I’ll always be grateful for my agricultural days and the future I’ve pursued because of my roots. With resilience, a new day will come.