Class of 2020 UNLV Graduate, Shane O’Brien, Las Vegas, NV USA

Shane O’Brien

“This has affected essentially all of my travel and life plans…But I’d say my biggest advice is to not be afraid of how the pandemic will affect you in the long term, and to do what you need to do in the moment so you can come out this stronger than ever.”

Today, Shane O’Brien was supposed to walk across the stage in his graduation ceremony at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Instead, he’s joined the millions of students who are graduating college this Spring without having the proper opportunity to feel this satisfying accomplishment and celebrate the enormous feat with friends and family.

Shane, like so many other college students, was sent home halfway through Spring semester of his senior year never to return to school at the university that he spent three and a half years building his future on. With barely any notice, Shane had to leave his friends, his girlfriend, and his educational mentors back at the university.

This afternoon Shane’s family celebrated his momentous milestone with a “Zoom” toast to commemorate his achievement, which included relatives who joined from all over the US and virtually made the best of the current situation.

Read more about Shane’s thoughts on spending the second half of his senior year second semester on his parent’s couch in a San Francisco suburb, and the challenges he’s faced since the pandemic hit, below:

Where are you quarantining, and who are you quarantining with?

“I’m currently sheltering in place at my parents’ townhouse in Northern California. In reality, I live in an apartment right next to the UNLV campus in Las Vegas. In the wake of the disruption caused by COVID-19 and all classes moving online, my apartment complex which primarily houses UNLV Students offered all residents the opportunity to suspend their leases for the months of April and May, and basically be able to move out for those two months and not pay rent. Family’s the most important thing in the world to me, so the chance to spend an extra month and a half with my parents while also saving a couple thousand dollars was a no-brainer!” 

Has this travel ban/quarantine situation impacted any important plans you had laid out for the near future?

“The quarantine has affected essentially all of my travel and life plans. I was supposed to go on a Spring Break trip where I’d spend a couple days in Mexico with my friends, and then fly across the country to Boston to see my extended family including my uncles and aunts and cousins. I was also going to visit my grandparents at their assisted living facility, and later that week I was going to see my childhood best friend–as well as other friends I haven’t seen in years. The pandemic additionally prevents me from going on any kind of post-graduation trip this summer.

My post-graduate plans have also been greatly impacted. I had planned on staying in Vegas for another year or so and then most likely moving to the East Coast. I started off only applying to jobs in Vegas, but realized after a while that there aren’t too many jobs hiring since it is one of the hardest hit cities in the country. I’ve since had to expand my job search to other cities all around the country (This wouldn’t be ideal for me and my girlfriend–who I haven’t been able to see since quarantine started since she lives in Southern California– because she has another year of school left, but I think we’d make it work 😊).

What’s the biggest challenge you think you’ve faced during this quarantine situation?

“Definitely the job search. I’ve spent many hours applying to jobs online, and I’ve only heard back from three places. Two of them were unpaid internships, basically asking why I’m even interested. I feel that I don’t have the same ability to network or meet potential employers since I’m not able to do so in person, and I feel robbed that I can’t go to any career fairs or events like that at school. I’m lucky to be looking for a PR/Communications job since they will be in high demand coming out of this, but I can definitely feel the effects of the crippled job market right now.”

What has your community been doing to fight the rate of transmission? Is this how you think the situation is best handled?

“I’m not sure if I should speak on Las Vegas (where I live normally) or San Ramon (where I’ve been living with my parents for the past month), but they are handling it almost identically so I’ll do both! They actually just entered into a pact together along with other western states to make decisions based on science regarding reopening. I think both governors Gavin Newsom of California and Steve Sisolak of Nevada are doing a phenomenal job of handing the situation. California and Nevada were two of the first states to close, and have been basing all decisions so far based on facts and science. 

It has been frustrating at times with some of the things you are told you can and can’t do, however. Some of the things just don’t make sense to me, like why state parks and hiking trails are closed and why some small businesses are forced to close while giants like WalMart can stay open. I would feel a lot safer alone in nature on a hiking trail than I would standing in line at a grocery store (especially before masks were required). I wouldn’t consider myself a rebel at all and in no way think states should reopen without the science to support it. There’s just some little, unexplained things like that that confuse and frustrate me.”

What have you been doing to keep your spirits up on a day-to-day basis?

“I’d say just looking forward to the little things. I get coffee with either my mom or dad and I look forward to that every day. We have routines, such as having homemade coffee with my mom and watching “The Price is Right” on Mondays, drinking Starbucks at the park on Tuesdays, and getting coffee from Noah’s Bagels after grocery shopping Thursdays. I also have a routine with my dad where we work out really hard on Saturday mornings then go to Dunkin’ Donuts, get huge coffees, and eat a few donuts each (Editor’s note: My family eats a lot. We’re always teasing each other about how much food is eaten). I’ve also been playing a lot more video games. I used to really love gaming when I was younger, but have always been too busy to play the last few years. So I’ve been getting back into that, and really enjoying it.” 

Is there anything you feel that this experience has taught you/anything you’ve learned, that you’d like to share as inspiration for everyone going through this together?

“I’d say just to be resilient and not give up. Applying to jobs has been frustrating so far, but the whole situation has kind of helped me accept that I probably won’t get my dream job or a job I really want immediately out of college. So I’d say my biggest advice is to not be afraid of how the pandemic will affect you in the long term, and to do what you need to do in the moment so you can come out this stronger than ever.

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