By: Manahel Ayyaz Khan
“If this pandemic has taught us anything then that would be that technology is today’s truth”. – Waqas Manzoor M.Phil’20
On 25th July, LUMS and the Class of 2020 saw an unprecedented online convocation ceremony. With Malala Yousafzai as the keynote speaker, and a heart-touching tribute by the Music Society, the convocation left a bittersweet taste for not only the graduating class, but for all of its 1500 live streamers.
I sat teary-eyed through the entirety of the convocation in front of the screen as my parents accompanied me to get a glimpse of what could have been my own graduation. My Dad watched all the high achievers excitedly as their faces lit up the laptop screen and my mother gleefully noted how the majority of these high achievers were female students, “Your university has a lot of brilliant girls”, she said.
Four months ago, the graduating class was faced with the news of their LUMS journey being cut short as the closure of all educational institutions was announced by HEC on the night of 12th of March. Back then, there was a breakout of celebration by the student body as their mid-term exams were being cancelled.
“But who’d have guessed that in that moment, the precious last 90 days of our time here were being taken away from us too,” said Azka Asad ‘20, “There was no closure”.
Asad narrated how, despite being oblivious to the full horrors of the pandemic, she and her group of 12 made every moment of the last 5 days together, count. “We were supposed vacate the campus on the 18th of March but we didn’t do it until the last moment and in the meantime, we were together 24/7”.
March 2020, it had not become any easier for these graduating students. They were stuck with a deep sense of nostalgia for their past days at LUMS and an overwhelming feeling of missing out. Asim Waheed ‘20 narrates “I remember at the end of each year after each final exam that I took, I would try to summarize all that had happened in the past year in a few words. A small wave of nostalgia would run through my body at the end of every semester. That physical sensation was missing this time”.
In April, the semester resumed online and everyone got busy with trying to navigate through LMS, Zambeel, take home essays, and Zoom quizzes and presentations. Once the semester ended, these students were once again face to face with the graduation blues. “There wasn’t much we could do in the first few months of quarantine” said Waheed, “I think it was in this time that I found out I’m really not as introverted as I thought I was”.
From April to July, these emotions were not just restricted to the undergraduate batch. Their seniors from graduate degrees shared the same sense of uncertainty and sadness. “From our field work cutting short to our graduation dinner at Masjid Wazir Khan being cancelled, from job uncertainty to a looming online graduation, it was horrible to sit at home- to say the least” said Waqas Manzoor M.Phil ‘20, “However, being a researcher in the education field, I have realized one important fact; technology is today’s truth. And nothing could have hit us better with reality than this pandemic”
However, it was not all blue for these graduating batches. In July and August, as people started settling into the new normal, these students found a way to come to terms with their new routine as well, “It got a little easier”, said Waheed. He went onto explain how he busied himself with planning out graduate school, starting a job hunt, enrolling in online courses for personal development, staying in touch with friends, and making a new meme account. “Making a new account allowed me to choose between a wholesome feed and a meme feed. Very subtle, little changes in my routine allowed me to cope with this new normal”.
Similar patterns were found amongst his peers. Asad found a new job, Manzoor busied himself with his passion, street theater, and Sanha Tahir of the Class of 2020 seemed pleased with her placement in a well-reputed firm, “The convocation was a bittersweet affair- but I can’t wait to experience my office life in person. I’ve heard they have massages and gyms!”
However, where the LUMS convocation was a bittersweet experience for some, for many it was fulfilling as well. Asad told us about how she and her family got dressed up on graduation day just as they would have for a normal graduation and sat in their dining room. Her parents presented her with the graduation book and cap while her sisters took her pictures.
These raging emotions of nostalgia, anxiety, uncertainty, and sudden partings were not all that dominated for the Class of 2020 in this quarantine. They were mixed with a collective feeling of unity and human empathy where they learned to find happiness and gratitude in the small blessings of life. For people like Asad, it was in the shape of celebrating a rite of passage at home with her loved ones. For Waheed, it came in the form of streamlining his future and driving a sense of control out of it. For Manzoor, this happiness came from continuing to do what he loves; street theater. And for Tahir, it was in pursuing her dream job and focusing on the future rather than staying engrossed in her past.