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Graduating in absentia

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I’m staring quietly at a screen, my finger is still anxiously hovering over the mouse as I lean back into my desk chair. That’s it. My dissertation is finished and submitted. Done.

Done. My entire university career over, just like that, a click of a mouse. Incredibly anticlimactic. There’s no crowd of friends around me as we huddle around the coffee table, no all-nighters at the library and no real sense of elation.

Credit: Brig Newspaper

I submitted the most important piece of academic writing of my life, in a small room in my flat and felt nothing. I think I felt nothing because there is nothing to look forward to.

There won’t be a graduation. I won’t wear the cap and gown or celebrate with all of the people in my year that made it. My mother won’t take pictures of me with a diploma and pretend that she isn’t crying. There’s just, nothing.

I came to Stirling four years ago with the expectation I would walk across that stage and get handed my diploma – I never imagined that it would be emailed to me instead. And no doubt the very prestigious PDF certificate will land directly into my junk folder.

Credit: Times Higher Education

I’m not the only person who will graduate in absentia this year, and no doubt the fourth years from last year felt just as strange as I do now. What a disappointing way to end what were supposed to be the best four years of my life.

Now I’ll start slowly packing up my flat. Take one last trip to campus to return books I took out last year and take that iconic loch photo with the dissertation I printed myself. I won’t say goodbye to my tutor, or my lecturers, or the media office I used to edit Brig in.

This might very well be the last article I write for Brig Newspaper and I’m doing it from my own living room, alone, with lockdown hair while binge watching Grey’s Anatomy. None of this is how I imagined it.

Credit: American Libraries Magazine

However, I like to believe that sometimes I can be an optimist. This has been a terrible year but at the end of it, I wrote the hardest 13,000 words I will ever have to write and I still survived. I still submitted it. We all will.

This is not a sad article. This is a hopeful one. We will heal, we will get past it and we will move on. This pandemic may potentially be one of the biggest hurdles we will ever have to jump and we will make it through to the other side.

So yes, we will graduate in absentia. We won’t drink together and cry for the last time before we move on to larger things than Stirling. But we made it through and I couldn’t be prouder.

I’ll be smiling when I take that loch photo, holding my home-bound dissertation aloft in celebration because I did that. I did that all by myself and I’m proud. A cap and a gown doesn’t seem so important in the long run.

Credit: The Guardian

There are times when I didn’t think I would make it this far, regardless of worldwide pandemics. The very fact that I anxiously submitted that dissertation at all is a miracle and that is what I will hold onto.

I probably will neglect to check my junk folder for that PDF diploma. I’ll move to Glasgow and forget the smell of the hot rubbish bags that were always piled up in the middle of town. I’ll stop missing the curly fries from the Union. But maybe one day that won’t feel so empty.

So to the graduates of this year, my peers and my friends: congratulations. You should be so very proud of your resilience, your strength and your intelligence. You have done the impossible and you do not need to prance across a stage to feel it. Congratulations class of 2021.

Featured image credit: Mental Floss

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