Graduating in a pandemic – what does that even mean?
By Cassie Weiss, Features Editor
Here’s a little (not so) secret thing about me — I skipped my last college graduation. I went into college fresh out of high school. And although I loved writing and photography, the photojournalism program at the school I was attending just wasn’t for me. I disliked the professors, I disliked the content I was learning, and most of all, I really disliked my classmates.
There were only 16 of us in the program so it wasn’t all that easy to avoid the people I didn’t agree with and only hang out with the people I did.
So, when I was given the opportunity to sit in a full auditorium with these classmates, waiting hours on end for name after name to be called, I decided that was absolutely the last thing I wanted to do. I skipped graduation and went straight to the afterparty — a celebration I also didn’t stay very late at. Honestly, I just went because it was held at the Calgary Zoo.
Fast forward to 2019, when I finally decided I wanted to go back to university. I was entering a program I loved and one that mattered to me — not that reporting didn’t matter to me, I was just over it. You know, been there, done that. I wanted something new, where I could use the background and experience I had in writing to make a difference in a different type of way.
I was so excited to be attending an accredited university, where I could pick my own classes, push myself to the extreme and develop friendships along the way with the people in my classes, of which there were more than 16. Not all of our classes were the same and our like-mindedness showed up in the topics we chose to work through.
Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to actually walk across that stage — proud of the hard work that I had gone through to get out on the other side. I had broken out of my comfort zone and had truly learned, not only about myself, but also about many important things. I learned about humans and addiction and mental health, in ways that broke it down and tore it apart more than anything else I had ever experienced.
I knew this time, surrounded by close friends with similar passions to mine, that I would be cheered on, just as I would have people to also cheer on.
Enter the COVID-19 pandemic. Who knew that two years ago when I entered school that I would be sitting here by myself, only a few assignments away from the end of my program, wondering if graduations would ever happen again.
This drive-through graduation I had heard rumours of — what even was that? That wasn’t what I had envisioned. But then, I also hadn’t envisioned the entire world being shut down either. I guess my crystal ball is just slightly broken.
I had imagined a cap and gown, being handed a piece of paper and having my hand shook by the dean of my program. I had imagined going out for drinks with friends after, or celebrating in the park. I had not imagined being stuck in my house, knowing that if we went out we would have to pretend we were all from the same household — yes, I know, we’ve all done it, and if you haven’t done it, you are a much better person than I am.
To be fair, this program isn’t the end of my educational journey. I’m hopping right back in to get my bachelor’s degree, and I sincerely hope the pandemic is over in two years when I finish that degree. But at this point, it really is what it is.
It’s just an interesting concept — the idea that this last semester has flown by and soon I will be an MRU alumni. Regardless of the gymnasium stage or the drive-thru tent, that fact doesn’t change. The fact that I worked my butt off to finish a diploma program in two years also doesn’t change, and the skills I’ve learned and the people I’ve met will remain with or without a stage to walk across.
I find it funny that no matter how ready you finally are for something, the universe loves to just throw a wrench in your plans. It is honestly just one more learning experience for us all to take away.
So, if you are anything like me and are slightly disappointed you don’t get to be honoured on your special day, honour yourself anyway. Celebrate yourself, because you still did it. You still graduated, and you still worked hard to get where you are today. That fact doesn’t change just because there’s a pandemic outside your front door — and you should be proud.