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What does graduating online during the pandemic mean?

For a batch that was robbed of a year-and-a-half of college life because of the covid-19 pandemic, we have no way of knowing how things would've turned out otherwise

Most of the students have started taking their next steps, finding their own ways to end their time as students. Photo by Mohammad Shahhosseini on Unsplash
Most of the students have started taking their next steps, finding their own ways to end their time as students. Photo by Mohammad Shahhosseini on Unsplash

As I clicked ‘Submit’ on the computer screen for my last college paper and stretched my cramped hand, I graduated from Delhi University’s Jesus and Mary College. There was no rushing out of class, jokes about the questions, no plans of going to our favourite café for lunch. There was, instead, a stream of ‘Happy Graduation!’ messages on the class WhatsApp group, and that’s how our graduation caps were thrown up in the air.

While the results won't be out for another 2-3 months, the comfort of knowing that I've definitely passed, based on my previous grades, is also a daunting reminder that my college experience is done and dusted with.

I donned a sari for the farewell, but instead of seeing the classic red brick walls of DU, I sat in my room, opened my laptop, logged into the virtual meet, and bid farewell to a place I haven't been to for more than year. It was more a bidding of farewell to the people who made the place what it was. The sweet words of my juniors and teachers were filled with wishes for our future, and reflected the disappointment for all the classes that didn't happen—the department festival where the batches didn't bond, the competitions where we didn't support each other, and the farewell where the juniors didn't have enough memories with us.

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As the movie our juniors had made of our batch’s time on campus, it was like reliving memories from a very distant past. And just like that, all my thoughts of "I'm finally done with college" were suddenly replaced by "I want to go to college again."

"I still remember my first day of college (the orientation). The excitement in the air, how I was determined to explore every inch of my college, checking out the canteen menu. I don't know if I will remember my last day of college the same way, with the half-hearted excitement of online sessions and ‘we did it’ GIFs flooding my WhatsApp chats,” says Aditi Sharma, a fellow ‘JMC-ite’.

For a batch that experienced the best of college life for a year and a half and was robbed of the rest because of the covid-19 pandemic, we have no way of knowing how things would've turned out. There are memories we can only imagine we would have made, based on the wear and tear on my Delhi Metro card, and the heaps of food bills, movie tickets, polaroids, and cultural societies' merchandise‎ I've saved.

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The anticipation of counting down days and the lively bustle of the very last fest season didn't happen. Instead, there were messed up sleeping schedules because of late night Netflix binges, Clubhouse rooms, and 4am rant sessions with best friends. There was small talk with new people on dating apps, and sorting out old lovers' quarrels; relationships that couldn't stand the distance and lessons in the art of letting go; online classes we slept through; and the hardest of all, weeks of stress worrying about hospitalised relatives and the second covid wave. Every day was a drag and I never thought I'd let out a sigh of relief when I graduated. "This entire period was like a gloomy day in the last week of January, when you’re tired of the cloudy skies and bitter cold winter, and too worn out to even get out of bed. The days seemed to repeat themselves," says Edha Garg, who went back home to Chandigarh to attend her final year of college online.

It's also been a time of going the extra mile for friendship. “I kept in touch with friends by planning gaming nights and virtual meetings on a regular basis. We had movie nights and watched all the latest Netflix films on Netflix Party and Discord,” says Charvee Wadhwa, a third-year student at Lady Shri Ram College.

Most of us have started taking our next steps, finding our own ways to end our time as students. People are celebrating their friends getting placed or getting through prestigious postgraduate programmes, all on Instagram stories of course.

My next step begins with writing this article, my very first to be published. Further steps will include entrance exam prep for postgraduate programmes, and weekend brunches with friends I've dearly missed. I realise now that I'm looking forward to pursuing a postgraduate programme much more than I was before the pandemic, to get to be on campus as a student again.

Akshita Taneja is a Delhi-based writer

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