Graduation and I
Nicola Chappel talks about graduating during COVID-19 and how it could solidify memories from her time at uni in a surprising way.
Captured in millions of photographs every year, it’s a moment in many young people’s lives that takes pride of place in their parents’ living rooms: after three (sometimes more) years of university, students have the traditional and momentous graduation. Yet whilst the class of 2020 have completed their final assignments and exams just as previous years did, they have achieved it all through a pandemic meaning they cannot celebrate in the way they should.
Undeniably, having no graduation this year has left myself and many of my peers feeling deflated; we have effectively been robbed of our final months, deprived of our final culminating celebrations. Not only are we unable to celebrate our hard work – all those coffee-fuelled essays, the hours sat revising flash cards, the times when we did not feel like we could ever sift through the mountain of work – but we cannot memorialise our university experiences: the friends, the societies, the memories, the unforgettable highs and the inevitable lows. We could not have our ‘lasts’ as students at Exeter and perhaps that will leave us holding on to that life and those friends for longer.
We have effectively been robbed of our final months, deprived of our final culminating celebrations
However, COVID-19 has highlighted the spirit and resilience of our generation, with many graduates finding alternative and innovative ways to celebrate; I have seen Instagram posts of homemade graduation caps and gowns, of alcohol-related celebrations on zoom calls with friends and special family dinners in the sun. I, like many others, had a celebratory dinner with my family, and in the weeks afterward, festivities continued through groups zoom calls that replaced the summer balls, the nights out and the festivals that we should have been attending.
Perhaps there is beauty in these homegrown graduations though: it is not a spectacle of an institution, with a brief mentioning of your name, but instead personal, meaningful celebrations with those we love, with whatever we have around us. It will not ever be able to constitute what we had hoped – it is anti-climactic after all – but the loss of the culmination of university for this year’s graduates will no doubt make our university memories all the more special and distinctive.
One thing is for certain: we will have a considerably more gratifying and poignant graduation than any other
There is no closure on the university chapter for us, but that cannot take away the memories and achievements of the last three years. They will be remembered and cherished, whether it be in your back garden for now or at graduation ceremonies a year from now. There are not many optimistic thoughts we can gain from the bittersweet ending for the class of 2020, but one thing is for certain: we will have a considerably more gratifying and poignant graduation than any other.
For now, there are many immediate hardships to be faced worldwide and life as we know it is on hold. We are allowed to grieve what would have been but the overhanging wait for a graduation ceremony will undoubtedly be a constant source of hope and prospect for a return to a happier normal.