Just over a week ago, graduating students received an email from the principal of the university announcing that, for the second year in a row, graduation would be postponed due to COVID-19. Although in many ways unsurprising, the confirmation of a graduating class’ worst fears were realized in that single email.
As an impending graduate, I have moved through a mix of emotions surrounding the postponement. The first was utter disappointment.
When you begin university as a fresher, you look at your weekly tutorial readings and coursework as a natural stepping stone to what you hope is your future career, even if that goal is floating far in the back of your mind. But the natural step that solidifies the end of your time at university is your graduation. However symbolic, graduation provides closure to an entire chapter of your life and without it, for me, I am afraid I will lack that closure.
That feeling brought me to my second emotional reaction: pure anger. This anger was directed partly at the university, but mostly this anger was directed at the pandemic, for taking away yet another facet of normalcy.
In many ways, the university’s decision was inevitable and unavoidable. Although the global situation regarding the pandemic is much improved since this time last year, the same fear surrounding graduation remains: gathering groups of people, even just students, comes with the risk of re-introducing coronavirus to the St. Andrews community, especially when those people will have to travel from across the globe.
This was when a sense of reality kicked in and I started feeling an odd sense of calm, and even a bit of excitement.
The week of graduation is usually a huge celebration, where St Andrews is entirely filled with graduates and their families. It is essentially one massive week-long party. If the university had come up with an alternative version of graduation for this year, it would be a depressing substitute conducted at a safe social distance, most likely without family there to cheer us on.
Although missing the immediate closure graduating at the end of the year, graduating next year is bound to have its perks: we can have the traditional graduation ceremony with, hopefully, all of our friends and families there to watch. Even better, we get to celebrate not only with our own graduating class, but potentially with the class of 2022 and 2020. The image of partying with three years’ worth of graduates is beyond comprehension, but bound to be ridiculously and chaotically fun.
In general, I think it is easy for the class of 2021 to view the postponement of graduation as a terrible ending to a depressing final year at university. But I also believe that we have the opportunity to end this horrible year with something amazing to look forward to, when we can properly celebrate our completion of university. In that regard, I am choosing to the look on the bright side and end my time at university just as I started it, looking forward to what lies ahead!