By Ameera AlSaid
We’re ‘The Corona Batch’, that’s what some students refer to themselves and their classmates now that they have graduated amidst this ongoing pandemic. Covid-19 has changed so much of our lives and university graduation ceremonies are no exception as the class of 2020 will tell you.
After the shutdown of education institutions and the transition to online classes, Qatar Foundation’s universities decided to officially postpone their graduation ceremonies, initially scheduled for May, to a later date this year. However, each university celebrated its graduating class by holding an online, live commencement. Some held a YouTube live video, a social gathering on zoom and another did a complete virtual ceremony with students dressed in their gowns.
Salwa Sadek, a Journalism graduate from Northwestern University in Qatar told Doha News she was happy that at least some sort of celebration took place:
“It was great that the day we were supposed to graduate which was May 4 didn’t just go past as any other day but they actually organised a virtual graduation ceremony for us… it might have been a short video they put together but it meant so much to us as students.”
“we felt valued and I think that’s really important for an institution to really value their students and put in effort to make them feel like their four years didn’t go to waste and despite this pandemic and despite all of us being locked in our houses they’re still finding ways to celebrate everything that we’ve done.”
Salwa’s digital ceremony had a surprise cameo appearance from U.S TV star Stephen Colbert who congratulated the students on their successes and shared his thoughts on how graduating during a pandemic will teach them a lot, like how being an adult is eventually finding out that “what you want to do is what’s right and what has to be done.”
Other universities in QF like Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown and Virginia Commonwealth University School of Arts held similar online gatherings. Each university managed to celebrate its students, call their names and share goodwill massages from faculty and staff.
Teslim Sanni, an Art History graduate and student leader reflected on his time at university,
“When I look back at the past four years, we started that journey and we thought that everything would go a specific way. We started in the “olden times” as I like to say, in a world back before the great pandemic of 2020, because that is how we will remember these times. But one thing is certain: we have definitely made it through a time of great sacrifice and great need.”
Dr. Ahmad Dallal, dean of Georgetown University commended students and their families in his video message on the sense of community demonstrated since the coronavirus pandemic began:
“This ceremony honours the courageous academic struggles and honourable success of our graduating students. This year…turned out to be a noble struggle, a battle we waged together in our hearts, and minds, using-in addition to our computers, our internet access and learning software-the most heroic of weapons: our empathy, and our common humanity.”
Whilst many students appreciated the efforts made by the different universities to celebrate their achievements despite the restrictions of social distancing, they are still hopeful that they will get to wear their gowns and walk up on stage and collect their certificates physically.
“Texas A&M university did a wonderful job considering those circumstances, obviously, I would’ve hope that it would be with my professors, with my fellow classmates, for all of us to be together, dressed in our graduation gowns, walk down stage and have the dean hand over the diploma. But regardless, I was really happy to be with my family. We had a celebration dinner afterwards, so it was really nice. And who gets to say that they graduated online during a pandemic, so it was special in that sense.” Joelle Katbeh told Doha News
Qatar Foundation had announced that it would hold a virtual convocation for the class of 2020 next month, however, due to the negative responses received from graduates on their social media accounts, they decided to cancel it saying,
“our students always come first, and based on your wishes, we will be postponing the virtual QF convocation to pave the way for a physical one at a later date.”