Graduation from an American university requires advance preparation. First of all, months before the day of the ceremony, graduating students need to reserve their cap and gown, which they can usually pick up at the university store. In addition, they will have to apply for the graduation certificate that will be issued on the day of graduation. Applying for the cap and gown, as well as the diploma, has deadlines that must be met if the student wants to graduate with all of his or her classmates. Most universities believe that all students should have the right to participate in their graduation ceremony so they do not charge for applications or caps and gowns. After submitting the applications, they are evaluated and if a student does not meet the requirements for graduation, evaluators will contact him/her. If all requirements are met, students would only have to make sure to maintain their grade in order to receive their diploma on the day of the ceremony. During the days leading up to the ceremony, all students usually receive a series of instructions indicating specific locations and times for graduation. On the day of the ceremony, all students participating in the graduation must wear the cap and gown. Due to the large number of graduates, each student is given a card with his or her name and grade, which each student will give to the person in charge of announcing the graduates to avoid confusion as he or she walks across the stage to receive his or her diploma. There are three different types of honors in American graduations depending on the student’s GPA (grade point average out of 4). Graduates with a GPA between 3.5 and 3.74 are honored as Cum Laude, those with a GPA between 3.75 and 3.89 are Magna Cum Laude and those with a GPA between 3.9 and 4 are Summa Cum Laude. These honors are highly recognized in the United States.
Graduating from college is every student’s dream. But this dream intensifies when you study at an American university. For any American, graduation is one of the most important days of his or her life. Graduation usually lasts an entire weekend. Families of the seniors come to visit, lunches and dinners are organized, gifts are purchased and everyone prepares for the big day. On graduation day, there is usually a university-organized picnic where students and families gather to celebrate. Finally, depending on the university, recent graduates and their families gather at a bar to continue the celebration and begin the farewells, as graduates generally will not return to the university and many move to other states or different countries. Graduating is, for all students, quite bittersweet; you are officially an adult but you have to say goodbye to what has been your family for the past four years. But for international students it is often more sour than sweet, especially if they plan to return home.
2020 Seniors. After four years of studying more than 6,000 kilometers away from home, the end is drawing near. For many this means going back to Spain, for others it means staying in the United States to do a master’s degree or OPT, but for everyone it means finishing those four years of undergrad that they have enjoyed so much. For three years you have been watching how the seniors of your university are celebrated, what if “senior night” here, “senior meal” there… in short, everything is related to celebrating the seniors. And suddenly, your year arrives. Now all conversations revolve around your graduation and your plans after graduation. Everyone asks you what you are going to do, if you are going to stay or go, if your family is coming… and you start planning your graduation weekend. Your family buys tickets to come see you, you book a venue to have dinner with your family and your friends’ families on your graduation night, you order your cap and gown, you order graduation photos… your entire last semester revolves around graduation planning. It is getting closer and closer, and the end that three years ago seemed like it would never come is just around the corner.
March 2020. Covid arrives, a virus that a few months ago seemed like a bad flu and little more. Universities are beginning to close. First you think “two weeks without class, it gets messy”. But things get worse and you have to go back to Spain, lest they close the borders and you can’t see your family again for six months. That sour feeling you were dreading comes two months earlier than expected. From one day to the next you are going to finish your university degree through Zoom from your home in Spain. You have one day to say goodbye to your college family; your friends, roommates, teammates, the owner of your favorite bar, in short, everyone. You thought you would have a couple of months but no, the time has come and you have 24 hours to pack your bags and say goodbye. You go back home, it’s hard at first but you get used to it. And just when you thought you were over it?
May 2020. Finals are coming and graduation is approaching. Last day of class, not bad, at least you no longer have to do Zoom at eight o’clock in the evening (six hours time difference). But graduation day arrives and all the “2020 seniors” start posting things on social media (how bad social media is). You realize that it’s really over now. You start looking at photos and videos from the past four years and all you can think about is how amazing it would have been to be able to celebrate and say goodbye to your second family the way you deserved. The university organizes a sort of online graduation but as much as the effort is appreciated, it is not the same. The Covid situation is affecting everyone so you know you have to pick your head up and stop whining. Now you can only make the best of yourself and trust that having studied in the United States will open many doors for you. It’s time to look for a job or start a master’s degree or whatever you had planned to do and move on. The last four years do not go unnoticed, you have gained knowledge, you have experienced being relatively independent and above all, you have made friends that will last a lifetime.
To all the “2020 Seniors”, every effort has its reward and the work of the last few years will not go unnoticed. Now it’s time to beat this virus and move on. Congratulations and best of luck!