Students look back on final memories before leaving campus

Media Credit: File Photo by Arielle Bader | Assistant Photo Editor

Now that mask orders, restaurant closures and social distancing are the norm, even mundane experiences like grabbing lunch with some friends are nostalgic to reflect on.

During her last few days on campus last March, then-sophomore Cece Michalowski went on one last monument walk with friends from her theater company.

Michalowski said she walked around the National Mall for three hours with some of her closest friends from 14th Grade Players, most of whom were graduating seniors at the time, and sat together at the backside of the Lincoln Memorial. The next day, she had a picnic under the magnolias and the cherry blossoms at the George Mason Memorial.

“It was really just a magical last few moments, really solidified some really great memories to keep me going through the rest of quarantine,” Michalowski said. “I still look at the photos I have from that night every once in a while when I’m really sad to just remember how good and innocent we all were back then when we thought we’d be back.”

Michalowski is one of four students who recounted their last fond memories in D.C. before packing up their rooms and heading home for the rest of the academic year. The students said their last recollection of an in-person college experience involved eating in bustling restaurants, sitting outside in Kogan Plaza as the days warmed up and walking around the National Mall with friends.

Bella Courchesne, a junior majoring in political communication, said she sat with her friends on a picnic blanket in Kogan Plaza doing homework, drinking lemonade and eating fried dough from a nearby food truck the week before spring break. She said her internship at Hill TV had taken up most of her free time that semester, and she had more time off that week to catch up with friends.

“It was one of those really fun times when GW actually all comes together and every single person is outside on campus at the same time,” she said. “Obviously it doesn’t happen very often at GW, but everyone was in Kogan that day.”

Dylan Basescu, a senior majoring in physics and political science, said last year on Valentine’s Day he surprised his girlfriend, senior Eleanor Paul, by taking her out to eat her favorite type of food at Pho 14, a Vietnamese restaurant in Mount Pleasant. He said it was the last dinner they’d have together before the pandemic hit – Basescu went back to New York and Paul went to California to quarantine.

“We didn’t know if we’d see each other again, and we still haven’t seen each other in coming up on a year, which really sucks,” he said. “I really miss her because being apart has been a very big strain on our relationship.”

He said while in the following weeks the virus would prove to be an increasingly “serious” issue, the date was one of the last times that he didn’t have to worry about the virus.

“I was not forecasting the degree of devastation that it would have on the country,” he said. “So it was, that was roughly around the last time that I wasn’t thinking about it.”

Rebecca Radillo, a senior from Huntington Beach, California, said she was directing a production of “Julius Caesar” with the GW Shakespeare Company in the weeks leading up to the transition online. She said a friend of hers from out of town visited the University to take a photoshoot of the cast for the show’s posters, and she took her friend to see another Shakespeare show, “Macbeth,” premiering the last weekend of February. 

That was the last show they were able to put on before leaving campus, and Radillo’s production of “Julius Caesar” was canceled, she said.

“Seeing the show, it was really, really fun just because live theater is always fun,” she said. “And it’s one of the things that I miss the most, getting to go see shows a couple times a month, just because there were four theater companies at GW, and I saw almost all of their shows all the semesters I was there.”

Radillo added that she showed her friend around Smithsonian museums, walked around the District and enjoyed a meal out that weekend.

“In a strange way, I knew then that I had to savor that weekend as much as possible, because I knew that there was never going to be another one like it,” Radillo said.

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