Dear fellow members of GraSPP community,
The past few months have proved to be an extremely difficult time for many of us. From high unemployment rates to economic uncertainty, the intersection of multiple challenges during the COVID-19 crisis has affected various aspects of everyday life in many parts of the world. The widespread school closures, including at Columbia University where I have been working on my double-degree program, were one of the many changes that greatly impacted my life.
We had to sacrifice our classroom environments and gradually adjust to zoom-online classes so that we could oblige to the appropriate social distancing measures. After months of government-ordered lockdowns, I began to feel isolated, helpless, and lonely. The physical absence of our professors and fellow students made me fear that I would no longer be able to gain the full experience I envisioned in graduate school. However, I soon realized that I was wrong. The professors have consistently shown their best efforts in ensuring that students were receiving the best quality education that they could offer. The students united and supported one another through our spirit of shared sacrifice. Throughout the toughest times, I began to feel truly connected and supported even when I had been physically isolated from my peers. I carry my deepest appreciation for my Columbia community and commend their extraordinary commitment to solidarity during these unprecedented times.
As a double-degree student sent from GraSPP to SIPA, I was always aware of the striking social segregation in the United States. But the COVID-19 crisis made inequality among different communities more visible. Although I am moving back to Japan and returning to GraSPP in July before the official completion of my double-degree program, it is my duty to continue to support my peers and the vulnerable communities in any way, shape, or form. I encourage you to do the same.
There is no doubt that the current reality is a hard one to face. This year has taken an unexpected turn for all of us and has changed the way we go about our daily lives. As the Class of 2020, we will now miss our final goodbyes, our final commencement, and our final celebration for some of our greatest accomplishments. These special moments were taken away unexpectedly, and to some, unfairly. However, I urge us all to remember that we will always have one thing in common: the strengthened interpersonal bonds that have formed from persevering through these unprecedented challenges together. Through the power of social media and technology, we are able to connect with the world to continuously support one another no matter where we are. In these increasingly challenging times, I hope you will step into the future with even more passion, vision, and purpose to serve the communities in need.