If I have learned one thing in the last few months, it is that setting expectations in these strange times does not always end well. That includes the expectations I had of what our online graduation event would be like… I didn’t expect much at all. And now, after graduating last week, I can safely say that the UCR Class of 2020 graduation event exceeded the expectations any of us had.

On Friday, June 12th, I found myself smiling at my webcam, looking at all the faces of happy graduates with their caps and tassels as they were shown on screen one-by-one. Even though we couldn’t physically see our parents, friends, and professors as they watched us graduate, we knew that they were there. It made the ceremony very intimate, just me, my fellow graduates and the Dean speaking to us live from the Burgerzaal in Middelburg. After all, that is how it all started three years ago. Me, nervously glancing around at all the people gathered in the Burgerzaal all dressed in bright blue intro week shirts waiting for the Dean to address the class of 2020 for the first time.

Seeing the work my fellow students put in to creating memorable videos, music and speeches for our class; listening to our professors send us off with their lovely pre-recorded video messages makes me feel very grateful.  Particularly the Communications and Student Office, who not only had to organize an online graduation ceremony, but also had to deal with a last-minute campus-wide internet connection problem. It is extremely humbling to know that they, and everyone else here at UCR, were always here for us. They supported us while we were discovering our passions; tried their very best to accommodate us during online lectures and the online presentation of our Senior Projects; and finally pushed themselves hard to ensure the best possible graduation ceremony for us during these unprecedented times. Ingenuity, creativity and being able to rely on each other are tokens of my time at UCR. And it will stay with me forever.

I haven’t stopped smiling and I probably won’t stop smiling for a while. Thanks to everyone who made the Class of 2020 graduation so special. It’s the people that made my three years at UCR unforgettable. And to those special, wonderful people that make UCR what it is, thank you.