Just three weeks into the fall 2020 semester, we photographed 15 students and asked them about being optimistic in these unprecedented times.

On Sept. 16, 2020, we set up camp near the Coffeehouse in the Ley Student Center and asked 15 random students if they would be willing to let photographer Tommy LaVergne take their portraits. While we had their attention, we asked the students to sum up their semester in one word, tell us whether they felt optimistic and let us know what they look forward to in 2021. 

Words used to describe the semester included “adaptable,” “unpredictable,” “busy,” “positivity,” “heartening,” “unique,” “intriguing” and “growth.” Most of the students we spoke with were cautiously optimistic: “We won’t overcome COVID, but we will adjust,” said John Cook, a junior.

“I do feel optimistic, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty with how the pandemic is going. I trust how Rice is handling everything, but anything could happen,” said freshman Ariana Wang. 

“I’m always hoping for the best because it brings a lot more peace than expecting the worst,” said senior KC Nwadei. Freshman Ava Paulina Fradlin Ryan said she is “definitely” optimistic and junior Asha Malani is hopeful that “Rice will do its best to ensure a fun and safe semester.”

Sophomore John Daniel said, “I’m excited to tackle this year regardless of what issues are present and make new friendships along the way.” Thomas Kovac, a junior, feels that “even through these tough times there are still so many chances to broaden your horizons and take on new opportunities and challenges.”

Hopes for 2021 include “taking my mask off,” “graduating,” “getting into a new routine,” a “post-COVID college experience,” “giving hugs to my classmates,” “competing during track season,” “creating lasting memories with people I’ll never forget” and “everything — it’s a new year, so a new start!”