“ My generation has been told that COVID-19 will shape us …”
AS A FIRST-GENERATION college student , I had always anticipated walking across the big stage at UC San Diego ’ s commencement . Graduation was supposed to celebrate the significance of my accomplishment and also recognize a momentous milestone for my family . When COVID-19 took the moment away , I viewed it as a unique loss for my parents far more so than I did for myself . To my mother ’ s relief , the university has promised an in-person ceremony at a yet-to-be-determined date when it ’ s finally safe enough to gather . But that ’ s still no substitute for what the original moment would ’ ve been .
Each college adapted to the circumstances by hosting their own virtual ceremony over Zoom . Because my family was in their own separate quarantine at the time , I watched the stream on the couch with my roommates , who kindly decked out the house with festive decorations while I was sleeping . They crafted me my own
“ diploma ” from printer paper and gel pens and cheered as I walked down the stairs to “ Pomp and Circumstance .”
Despite their best efforts , virtual graduation did not go off without a hitch : my full regalia didn ’ t ship on time for the ceremony , and the Zoom stream didn ’ t load for some of my friends . But problems like that are certainly put in perspective given everything else that comes with the pandemic .
I ’ m grateful for having the opportunity and privilege to earn a degree , and for my friends and family who did everything they could to make the day special . Still , celebrating in quarantine felt anticlimactic and odd .
Of course , I never envisioned it happening like this . My last quarter of college took place entirely over Zoom , leading me to feel like my accelerated three-year college experience really only lasted for two and a half years instead . It feels like college went by way too fast .
I forget the last time I was on campus . It was probably for some random , unmonumental day that once felt like any other , with me rushing between work , class , and multiple extracurriculars . Serendipitously running into random friends , waiting for the bus , hiking to ERC , doing the usual . I ’ m sad for all the goodbyes I never got to say and the school I guess I left behind .
I ’ ve since moved back into my childhood bedroom , and it sometimes feels as if college never happened . My “ UCSD chapter ” was never truly closed and I ’ ve somehow ended up right back where I started .
My generation has been told that COVID-19 will shape us , and that a degree earned in 2020 will forever carry a certain amount of respect . Every generation has its challenges , but the class of 2020 has always had to grow up quickly . Our earliest years were shaped by 9 / 11 , our childhood by the stock market crash , our adolescence by school shootings and the 2016 election , and now our early adulthood by COVID-19 .
The pandemic has also made pre-existing inequalities even more apparent , as the most vulnerable and underserved communities continue to be the strongest impacted . These structural inequalities are deeply intertwined with racial inequities , which have been highlighted more clearly than ever by the Black Lives Matter movement .
Even though the class of 2020 may have graduated in unprecedented times , we ’ re using our voices and votes to fight for broader social and political change . I ’ m grateful that we still believe in a better future .
Lara Sanli ’ 20 was a student writer for Triton magazine , features editor for The Guardian , and ambassador for the UCDC Internship Program . She plans to pursue law school in Washington , D . C .