It was only 10 months ago that I walked the stage, shook the Dean’s hand, and received my diploma after three years of hard work at UCR. My fellow graduates and I were annoyed that our Ceremony had to be held inside due to the typical Dutch weather, which meant we had one less guest we could invite. Once inside in cap and gown, though, that no longer seemed to matter – I still had a blast. I said goodbye to the people who had become lifelong friends, promised I would keep in touch, and walked out of the church a fresh graduate.
Less than a month after that, I started my job at the Admissions and Communications Office of UCR. This was mostly a way to gain some ~valuable work experience~ before hopefully starting a Master’s, but also secretly a ploy to stay in Middelburg for another year and hang out with some of my friends who were now in their second and third year.
My ploy seemed to be working until about a month ago, when a sneaky virus decided to change everything as we knew it. Being the perfect example of an introvert, whose main hobbies consist of reading, being creative and playing Animal Crossing, and who suffers from both hay fever and sun allergies, staying at home is my most practiced life skill.
What I don’t do very well with, though, is the amount of uncertainty we are currently facing – when it comes to UCR, uncertainties concern classes, exams, interpersonal contact, campus life, and, of course, the June graduation. I found myself receiving updates about these uncertainties from the government, news outlets, colleagues, students, alumni, friends, family and random Middelburgers in the supermarket. Where at first I was juggling my roles as an employee of UCR, a friend of soon-to-be graduates, and a recent graduate living on campus just fine, suddenly I was placed in a much more difficult situation.
I was receiving confidential information earlier than most other members of the UCR community that I couldn’t share, I was seeing my senior friends tagging each other in memes about online graduation, and I was hearing neighbors complain about the unclarity surrounding everything. Because I identified with all three groups, I was experiencing a good ol’ case of role confusion (huh, seems like that Social Psychology course I took would prove useful three years later).
As I was chatting with my friends, I did not know what to do – should I play the employee and immediately defend UCR’s choices? Should I play the friend and recent graduate, and be angry along with them about the whole thing? Should I stay impartial or should I choose a side? Should I get angry at people telling me that my frustration at an inside Graduation Ceremony was stupid and unfair, or should I agree with them that it indeed was stupid and unfair to complain about it? Naturally, I tried to do everything at the same time – I can only hope I succeeded.
It was difficult to stay impartial while also caring about the hard work and extra hours I saw my colleagues putting in, and the sadness and frustration I could hear in my friend’s voices. How could I possibly ignore my own experience and tell my close friends of almost three years that graduation isn’t that big of a deal, when I got upset over an inside ceremony? On the other hand, though, where do I even begin explaining that graduation preparations take months, and that postponing the ceremony to an uncertain date would bring even more extra work to our team of six?
In the end, it is all relative – my Class of 2019 had all the right to be upset over having had an inside ceremony, because that was the worst outcome for us at the time. The Class of 2020 has all the right to be frustrated that they have looked forward to their walk across the stage for three years, and now feel its full glory is no longer there.
To round this up, I suppose my three roles should all get a conclusion. As an employee, I see that my colleagues and I are working harder than ever before to make this unprecedented situation feel at least a little bit normal, and that we are trying to come up with a solution that works for everyone involved. As a recent graduate, I share my anger with the Class of 2020 over this rite of passage you have looked forward to for years, suddenly not being how you expected and wanted it to be. And as a friend to my former fellow students, my heart aches for you, and I hope that despite all of this you feel that you are part of a community that cares, because it does.
I shall leave you with that before I regret my cheesy words, but just in case you forgot: stay at home if you can, wash your hands, and support local businesses.