After a year of learning remotely and dealing with personal challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Temple’s graduating seniors were able to walk across a stage and celebrate their accomplishments while socially distanced alongside their peers.
Despite the optimism about plans for the future and a potential return to normal, some still remain unsure about their futures beyond Temple.
In accordance with COVID-19 health guidelines, Temple University hosted a hybrid commencement celebration for the class of Spring 2021, with a virtual university-wide ceremony held on May 6 and individual schools and colleges hosted in-person ceremonies throughout May, The Temple News reported.
Guests were not allowed to attend the commencement ceremonies in person due to Philadelphia’s COVID-19 restrictions that only permit 50 percent of the venue’s maximum occupancy, The Temple News reported.
The hybrid Spring 2021 commencement came after Temple held entirely virtual ceremonies for the class of 2020, where graduates celebrated from home through Zoom toasts, grill-outs and photoshoots, The Temple News reported.
Here’s how Temple students are reflecting about their at Temple amid the pandemic and their plans after graduation:
Senior construction engineering technology major
After graduation, Datch Medrano will begin working as a photovoltaic design engineer for SunnyMac, a solar company in Wilmington, Delaware.
Graduating means a lot to Medrano because he’s the first person in his family to obtain a college degree, he said. The highlight of his senior year was staying consistent with deadlines and balancing working and studying during his final semester.
“Cause the pandemic was tough and, you know, staying home and like you know, not being able to see your friends here in campus,” he said. “So it was, it was a bit of a struggle but it was worth it.”
The biggest takeaway from his college experience was learning to find himself, Medrano added. His time at Temple made him friendlier as he learned to understand the various perspectives and cultures of his classmates, he said.
“College really really gave me like you know like a, like a gateway to like you know being independent and like working hard and just you know, being there for yourself and like you know, looking for opportunities and like you know taking it, and then working on your future career,” he said.
Senior biology major
After graduation, Jiyeong Choi is looking forward to a gap year to relax before going to graduate school, potentially to study organic chemistry, she said.
“Now I can take a rest,” said Choi, an international student from South Korea. “I finally graduated.”
Choi was grateful to have an in-person commencement because she wasn’t expecting to have one. Though her family is unable to attend the ceremony, they’re happy to watch it online, she said.
She learned how to communicate and strengthen her English while at Temple, she said.
“Even it was like, more of online courses, there was, like, a lot of like debate kind of classes, and I had, I still had opportunity to talk with many professors and take some advice from them,” Choi added.
Though Choi did not expect to attend college in the United States, it was a great opportunity for her to learn about other cultures, she said.
“I’m so honored to have some research opportunities then great lectures,” Choi added. “So yeah, it was such a great four years.”
Senior theater major
Kathryn Reinert was excited for the School of Theater, Film and Media Arts’ in-person commencement ceremony because she was able to walk rather than sit and watch her name appear briefly on a screen, she said.
The highlight of her senior year was finding a way to successfully do her senior showcase socially distanced, Reinart said.
After graduation, Reinert is planning to return home to Green Lane, Pennsylvania.
“My major in my field doesn’t exist right now, so I’m going to stay home for about a year and then I’m going to decide to either move to Disney or move somewhere else that’s not here,” she added.
Reinert is looking forward to no longer needing to balance school while working a full-time job, she said.
Senior media studies and production major
Megan Walsh will return to her hometown in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, after graduation, but is still searching for a job, she said.
Walsh worked with Temple Update as a main anchor and reporter in Fall 2020 and as a reporter in Spring 2021, which was the highlight of her senior year, she said.
“They actually let us be in person a little bit, like in the studio, which gave a little bit of a sense of normalcy,” Walsh added.
Senior film major
After graduation, Saba Ahmed will move back to Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, to begin working as a theater lead and managing the day to day operations at Broad Theater, an independent movie theater in Souderton.
She also plans to complete more independent work in the next few years, like freelancing, doing personal projects, and working towards moving back to Philadelphia, Ahmed said.
Remote learning was a challenge for Ahmed because being a film major requires a lot of hands-on experience, she said.
“I definitely had some setbacks with like losing gigs and like projects and stuff but it seems like everything’s on its way up,” Ahmed added.
However, Ahmed was able to participate in some in-person experiences this year, like her thesis project, she said. For her project, she worked as the director of photography in a student produced film about the changing relationship between two graduating high schoolers called, “Fire in an Empty Room,” she added.
“Actually getting to have a full production for a short film this year and just like seeing everyone come together was really cool,” Ahmed said.
Senior business management major
Morgan King appreciated having in-person commencement, though she wishes the guest policy was different, she said.
“I think I would be upset if we weren’t offered that option but at the same time it’s kind of frustrating not being able to have any guests,” she said. “Like I care about it for my family, like I want to be able to celebrate with my family so it kind of sucks that like, no guests can be there.”
For King, it was a challenge to manage schoolwork and a remote internship with the Philadelphia Energy Authority on the Solarize Philly campaign, a citywide group buying program to help Philadelphia homes become solar-powered, because she spends eight or nine hours a day staring at her laptop, she said.
“It’s just been frustrating not really feeling like I’m active, not that I necessarily am when classes are in person, but I would at least walk around in between classes and things like that,” King added.
King is interviewing for jobs but isn’t sure what the outcome will be, she said.