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Students share thoughts on commencement amidst pandemic

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Simon Asher and Simon Asher | The Daily Wildcat Two UA Grads show their excitement before the 153rd Annual UA Commencement on Friday, May 12.

The University of Arizona's graduation ceremony was canceled on March 20 after President C. Robbins shut down campus events in wake of COVID-19. One of the most memorable moments for a college student was taken away, so how are seniors feeling? How are they dealing with the situation?

With money involved and everything set up for the 2020 UA commencement ceremony, COVID-19 arrived to make people stay at home.

Alawi Hamza Bafageeh, an international senior from Saudi Arabia, explained his disappointment about not having a graduation celebration. He said his family members booked flight tickets and hotel rooms a year ago.

“I honestly was extremely pissed off because I have been waiting this day [for] like forever,” Bafageeh said in an email.  “I was dreaming about that day for so long … This dream has been on mind since I first arrived in the U.S., that was about 7 years ago.”

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Although the situation doesn't look positive, Bafageeh said he is in high spirits as his character and customs remain untouched.

“I'm that kind of person who looks at the bright side; in other words, as we say in Arabic, I look at the 'half full of a cup' not 'half empty of a cup'," Bafageeh said.

Bafageeh will be receiving his bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering states, which he said was not an easy task.

“I passed through hardship in so many ways, not only academics but looking at me right now I FINALLY MADE IT and now I can check my list of getting my B.S. degree,” Bafageeh said in an email. 

After graduation, Bafageeh is planning to pursue a master's degree in electrical and computer engineering at the UA, and then he is planning to go back home and start his professional career and new adult life.

Kirsten Jacobsen, a student-athlete majoring in accounting & management information systems, explained that every student looks forward to celebrating their accomplishments with family and friends. She said that COVID-19 also affected her athletic career.

“The spread of COVID-19 cut my swim just short of the national championships and abruptly ended my swimming career, which was really hard to deal with,” Jacobsen said via email.

RELATED: Arizona students request lower tuition at ABOR public hearing

Graduation pictures are another tradition impacted by COVID-19, which Jacobsen said worked out in her favor. 

“It was still fun to be able to have the spaces to myself to get some nice pictures to celebrate graduation,” Jacobsen said.

Jacobsen said her experience at the UA was great. After graduation, she plans to stay in Tucson to be with her boyfriend and get a job as a tax associate.

“It’s pretty surreal to be graduating already, I feel like my time here has flown by,” she said in an email.

Tony Viola IV, a Native American and first-generation student, said that he and his family were so excited about graduation, but they understand it is a situation they cannot control.

“Graduation was something my family has been talking about for years,” Viola said in an email. “I’m excited about the rescheduled commencement and plan on attending the virtual graduation ceremony.”

Viola will be receiving his bachelor's degree in literacy, learning & leadership.

“I am excited to do research and learn more about the ways to better support Native American students at large,” he said.

Viola plans to pursue an upper education at the UA as a doctoral student in the language, reading and culture program.


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