Seniors reflect on time at Northwestern, celebrate graduation amid COVID-19 restrictions

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Daily file photo by Caty Buchaniec

With the COVID-19 pandemic stabilizing, some graduating seniors said they are still finding ways to celebrate accomplishments.

Catherine Odom, Reporter

For the second year in a row, graduation celebrations are virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Northwestern will host a remote University-wide commencement on June 14, but each school will have its own, separate in-person convocation. In keeping with COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, each student will be allowed four guests for the in-person ceremonies.

With the COVID-19 pandemic stabilizing, some graduating seniors said they are still finding ways to celebrate accomplishments. 

McCormick senior Cem Civelek, an international student from Turkey, said he expects to hold small “impromptu events” with his vaccinated friends. 

Civelek said he will also see his parents for the first time in 18 months for graduation because COVID-19-related travel restrictions prevented him from returning home. He said he was overjoyed when he learned his parents would be able to attend convocation. 

“I was going to cry when I heard,” he said.

He added that he feels nostalgic looking back on his time at NU. As an international student, Civelek said coming to school in the United States was initially overwhelming and that he worried about fitting into a new culture. Ultimately, though, he said he was able to adapt.

“I grew up in these four years, so that makes me feel a lot less scared but more so nostalgic,” he said.

SESP senior Ray Solorzano said he is also looking forward to celebrating graduation with his family. As a first-generation student, he said this occasion is especially meaningful. 

“My parents are immigrants from Mexico, and obviously they sacrificed so much by coming to the United States,” Solorzano said. “I think a lot of FGLI students feel like they owe it to their parents to make them proud.”

Solorzano said he plans to celebrate at home with three other first-generation Latino students and their parents.

Weinberg senior Olivia Pritchard said she is feeling a mix of emotions, but because of the unusual circumstances, the end of college has not sunk in yet for her.

“There was no Senior Week, and we’re not doing a lot of the senior activities, so it doesn’t seem all too real,” she said.

Senior Week usually occurs between Spring Quarter finals and commencement. In the past, graduating students attended University-sanctioned events celebrating their time at NU, from trips to Six Flags to senior formals. The in-person celebration remains paused since 2020. 

Still, some members of the class of 2021 are also looking ahead to the future. 

Solorzano said he is on the job hunt but will likely attend graduate school next year to pursue his master’s in public policy. Civelek said he plans to either find a job or get a master’s in management studies at the Kellogg School of Management, and Pritchard said she will move to Boston to work as an emergency department scribe at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Pritchard added that she will miss the people at NU the most when she graduates. Civelek echoed these sentiments but added that he is excited to see the different paths his friends take in life.

“I am realizing now that I’m going to see a lot of my friends grow in very different directions,” Civelek said. “What Northwestern has given me the most is the network and the friendships that I have here.”

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