NYU Shanghai seniors, the Class of 2020, had a lot of plans for graduation this year. But the start of their final semester didn’t go so well, beginning with mounting virus dread, social distancing and remote classes. Despite the extenuating circumstances everyone is dealing with, NYU Shanghai is trying its best to maintain commencement as scheduled. In some form.
On April 17, the Dean of students, David Pe emailed that there will be a virtual graduation. He also wrote, “you are welcome to join the NYU ceremony in New York planned sometime during the next year. You are also invited to attend a graduation ceremony in Shanghai in May 2021 that will double as a first reunion for the Class of 2020”.
For many students, it is quite heartbreaking that a lot of events that seniors experience as rituals in their last semester have had to move online or be cancelled for those that can only be experienced in the academic building.
“When we were receiving emails about the 88-day countdown and NYU’s delay in commencement activities, it did sink in that we cannot get our last semester back in anyway, and even if we do end up graduating in Shanghai, things will be different,” said Gurkriti Singh ‘20.
After remote classes and online countdown to commencement events, seniors do not want an online graduation.
Jacob Salacinski said if an actual graduation cannot take place he is in favor of pushing it later into the year.
“Zoom classes showed me that no matter how great the technology, you cannot substitute the actual direct human interaction and I want to experience it either on May 29 or, if impossible, at some point later this year,” said Salacinski ‘20.
Amy Decillis ’20 had other thoughts that involved family. “I’m really disappointed that even if we have a ceremony, my family from America won’t be able to come and watch,” she said.
“I’m hoping we still have a ceremony but also feel it would almost be rude if half of the student body can’t participate. I’m dreading a Zoom graduation, but it might be the only way to ensure we can all participate,” she added.
Before the New York graduation at Yankee Stadium was cancelled, some seniors were considering the option of graduating in New York. In a poll conducted for seniors, 36 out of 58 said they would go to the graduation ceremony in Shanghai. Four seniors said they were interested in attending the ceremony at Yankee Stadium and 17 were not sure.
With the uncertainty around Shanghai’s graduation and New York’s graduation being delayed, some seniors are considering alternative options of graduating with the Class of 2021.
“I will likely celebrate graduation in either New York or Shanghai with the Class of 2021 since I value a physical graduation as opposed to a digital one,” said Zachary Young ‘20.
With new developments and travel disruptions every day, no one is sure if graduation will happen as planned.
Gurkriti Singh said, “Our class has gone through what no class ever has, and I think the NYU Shanghai administration is trying to make a last farewell possible for us in whichever way they can.”
“It gets down to the health authorities and regulations to re-enter China, and only time can tell if those move towards leniency as this pandemic spreads across the world,” Singh added.
Members of the Class of 2020 have really high expectations from the NYU Shanghai administration which is working hard to keep all seniors excited and acknowledge their hard work and achievements.
Zachary Young expects the administration of such a world-class university will go to great lengths to accommodate such an important event in students’ lives.
“I think it’s a real shame that our graduation must be conducted by very unconventional means, but in the greater purpose of public health it is completely understandable,” said Young ‘20.
Graduation has been a major motivator for several seniors and they have been planning it with friends and family for a long time.
Mustafa Abdaal ‘20 said, “Looking back, the last few years have been nothing short of breathtaking. A journey like this deserves an ending for all of us.”
“While I know our graduation isn’t going to go quite as planned, I’m hoping NYU Shanghai is still able to put together a small ceremony for us,” he added.
“I’ve always felt endings are important in themselves, so regardless of how big the audience is, if my family is present, how many pictures I get with my friends, or who hands me my diploma, it’ll still serve as the final ‘flourish’ of what could forever be the most impactful four years of my life,” he said.
Seniors are hoping that if the graduation is delayed, NYU Shanghai will facilitate getting everyone together at such an important event.
“It’s unfortunate that this is how we need to graduate,” said Noam Goldfinger.
“It is not the university’s fault, but we paid tons of money for this school and waited four years to graduate in a big ceremony. So if they cancel graduation, they will save a lot of money that I would expect them to spend on us, like sending each of us something home, or give us the money back! They should be creative!” said Goldfinger ‘20.
While feeling like having been “robbed,” Bishka Zareen understands the university is doing its best. “I would expect the NYU administration to facilitate everyone’s visit to Shanghai if the ceremony still happens and try to get as much of the class there as possible,” said Zareen ‘20.
If the graduation is delayed or cancelled, some seniors still plan to have a small celebration with friends and family. “I think I will still gather with NYU friends in Shanghai and do a small ceremony, just to feel the sense of the graduation,” said Yiran Yin ’20.
Other seniors plan to visit the campus again in hope of meeting some of their class fellows.
“In case the graduation doesn’t happen, I still plan to go back to Shanghai and see if I can get in to have a campus tour one last time. Also, if I am lucky enough, I may get to meet some friends and have the chance to say proper goodbyes to them,” said Liam Shao ‘20.
This article was written by Fizza Urooj based in Islamabad, Pakistan. Contact via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credit: Illustration by Fizza Urooj