2022 graduates receive diplomas, reflect on pandemic college experience

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Sydney Laput

The Alma Mater statue is seen wearing the University’s graduation cap, gown and regalia in time for the Class of 2022’s Commencement on Saturday. The recent graduates look back on their college experience when it comes to the pandemic and slow return to normalcy before graduation.

By Willie Cui, News Editor

Dressed in a cap and gown, Adam Woodard walked across the stage and received his communications diploma during a convocation ceremony at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday.

“I guess it’s bittersweet — that’s definitely the best word for it,” Woodard said. “A lot of different feelings coming to the ceremony, but nothing beats walking that stage, getting your diploma and walking off. The sense of accomplishment is just, it’s a lot.”

A few hours later, Yasmin Abumaye walked across as well and received her chemistry diploma. She said it felt “very surreal.”

“It feels great to finally be done and be able to walk through the ceremony,” Abumaye said.

After three years of virtual and scaled-back graduation ceremonies due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2022 University graduates were able to have the full graduation experience.

Katelynn Padilla received her chemistry diploma during her convocation ceremony at KCPA and plans on doing a doctorate program in pharmacy.

“It’s really nice,” Padilla said. “I mean, even though I’m graduating, I still have four more years to go … but it’s still really nice to graduate after all the hard work and everything.”

Padilla recalled struggling with online coursework earlier during the COVID-19 pandemic, including having to work on experiments for labs in her room.

“I really struggled (online) especially,” Padilla said. “I was stuck doing physics labs and they’re like, ‘Oh, find something in your room to do this lab.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t have anything in my room needed for this lab.’”

Abumaye expressed similar difficulties, noting that “it’s a little bit harder to ask specific questions related to lab results” when doing labs virtually.

“Just because that you didn’t get to go to the classes in person during the first year, it was very difficult,” Abumaye said. “Because for a lot of your classes where you have labs, it’s very crucial to have the team to help figure out how to properly conduct the lab for each lab.”

Woodard said the gradual return to normalcy helped motivate him to make it through to graduation.

“This was our first semester returning and trying to make the most of it before graduation,” Woodard said. “And I think that that kind of feeling coming in this semester really contributed to me pushing through and getting to graduation.”

Chirag Jain, who received his Computer Science + Astronomy diploma, said his freshman year stood out from his sophomore and junior years.

“It was definitely interesting,” Jain said. “Freshman year was really different from sophomore and junior year. Senior year, things started getting a little more back into the routine. I think it is an interesting experience.”

Anil Baradia, Jain’s father who attended the convocation ceremony, said he wasn’t able to visit Jain until his graduation because of the pandemic.

“I could not come for all his four years — I was always wanting to come,” Baradia said. “We could not travel, so we cannot see him here. So that is definitely a big hit.”

According to Jain, the pandemic only affected his college experience a little, noting how he wasn’t able to play the piano for a bit because the practice rooms were closed due to the pandemic.

“I like to play music and the music practice rooms were closed because of COVID-19, so I couldn’t play the piano for a bit. But yeah, apart from that, I think everything else is pretty good.

Padilla, who transferred into the University her junior year, echoed this sentiment.

“It was an experience, but I don’t think I really missed out on much,” Padilla said. “I feel like, even though a year was gone, I still found plenty of people to go hang out with and do the same things — just maybe less time to do that.”

 

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