By Nimrod Defeo

GRADUATION refers to the period of a journey and the accomplishment of a goal. It is, without a doubt, an exciting time in a person’s life. Whereas most people seem to think of graduation as a happy and exciting event, for college graduating students on the edge of entering the “real world,” it can be a stressful time, and uncertainty is exactly what the pandemic thrived on. 

The last two years have not gone as expected for graduating students. Getting out of bed and focusing on virtual class is nearly impossible. Instead of hanging out with friends after class, you just stayed indoors staring at your computer, being unproductive at all. But these challenges do not deter them from pursuing their dreams.

COVID-19 has caused many problems in every aspect of our lives.  Students are concerned about finding jobs while living in the midst of a pandemic. They would try to work in any online job to supplement the demands of online learning since virtual classes require extra expenditures where students need a gadget as well as a reliable internet connection or mobile data to attend classes. Furthermore, graduating students conducted their training but did not experience exposure in the formal internships because of the virtual setup, putting them in a stressful time finding a job after they graduate. 

It doesn’t stop there, this school year’s graduating students were K-12 pioneers, which requires them to complete two more years of high school, also known as senior year. The CHED stated that following K-12, high school graduates would be qualified for employment; but in reality, agencies and businesses are selective and would only choose qualified and experienced degree holders, leaving them disappointed. Therefore students, including myself, wanted at least to have a face-to-face graduation rite. I want to march and receive a diploma in front of my family and friends. 

During the initial months of the pandemic, we were prohibited from attending classes, meetings, seminars, or any other gathering that may put us in danger of contracting the virus. As a result, physical graduation ceremonies were canceled. The most recent graduation ceremonies, including our school, the University of Baguio, were held online. 

Virtual graduation was utilized to host the ceremony where prospective graduates and faculty members gather to celebrate the commencement on a variety of platforms that are accessible via a web link. Students receive their diplomas by mail. A customized slide is shown when the student’s name is called. The students can then take a screenshot or picture with the display screen. 

Doesn’t it appear to be simple? However, technical challenges such as choppy presentations and weak internet connections hindered some students from participating and enjoying one of the most significant days of their lives.

Undoubtedly, the in-person graduation feelings were far better and more emotional. You can be with your friends, families and gorgeously walk to the stage, with somebody taking a photo of you holding a diploma. 

According to Secretary Leonor Briones, if the pandemic situation improves, there may be an opportunity to allow physical graduation rites to take place. 

However, there is a substantial risk of infection and fluctuations in alert levels. It would be preferable to have a hybrid of virtual and in-person graduation ceremonies. It can be accomplished by adhering to both social and health protocols, such as having a small number of actual attendees and a large number of virtual attendees. For example, a school may only allow graduates and at least two parents or guardians to attend the graduation event; all social distancing rules must be followed; restrooms will be locked during the commencement, and groups will be warned not to gather after leaving the school grounds. The ceremony will then be streamed live online for the benefit of other families.

Graduation can be a challenging time in one’s life. Most of the time, you can’t even put into words how you feel prior to, during, and after graduation. But one thing is certain: it says you’ve accomplished something worth celebrating. Everyone wants to be connected to all their loved ones’ most significant days. It would make me very sad if the graduation ceremony would be performed virtually. Did we work hard for this just for our efforts to be recognized in an online graduation? But knowing that I am not alone helps to make this awful turn of events bearable. Hopefully, if the concept is approved, we will be able to march with our parents during graduation for the first time since the pandemic. I may be able to see my friend’s goodbyes coming.