KPU international students share their thoughts on virtual convocation

International students say they feel disappointed about being unable to celebrate in-person this year

KPU Convocation box (submitted/ Armaan Singh)

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing restrictions, KPU and many other universities and schools organized virtual convocations this year instead of the usual in-person ceremony. Since March, KPU has stopped hosting large gatherings or events in response to COVID-19, and will continue until further notice. The upcoming spring convocation is scheduled from June 7-11, 2021, and KPU has not yet determined whether it will be in-person or virtual.

For many international students, this takes away an opportunity to see their family — some for the first time in years.

Jagraj Virk, a KPU graduate this fall, says he was excited to graduate. He always dreamed of dressing up, walking on the stage to get his degree, and thanking his family and friends for their support.

He wanted to celebrate his achievement with his family, but being an international student during a pandemic put a halt to that dream.

“It was a perfect time to reunite with family and friends to celebrate my success after two years away from home,” he says.

“But that never happened, and that was a little heartbreaking for me.”

Seeing their children in a black gown and graduation cap is an important time in a parent’s life, and Virk says that letting them know that there would be no in-person convocation was difficult.

“It was bad. It was hard to tell them that the convocation was cancelled and they were not invited any more.”

Virk received two boxes in the mail from KPU instead. One had his degree and a book with the names of all of the students in his cohort in 2020. The second box had some confetti, a graduation cap, and a medal for him to celebrate his achievement.

Virk says he feels that convocation is “meant to be more than these things.”

Another recent KPU graduate, Kunal Khera, agrees.

“Convocation was a really bad experience for me,” he says.

“I was very disappointed because my mom and dad were going to fly to Canada to attend my convocation,” he says. “But COVID happened, and their flights were cancelled and the convocation was cancelled.”

Khera chose not to attend the virtual ceremony, and he says that receiving a congratulating email, and his degree in the mail, could not replace the real feeling of graduating on a stage. Khera and Virk say that, if it’s possible, they would like to see smaller in-person ceremonies held to celebrate graduation for future students.

“International students come with a dream in their eyes of graduating in a Canadian college, to them it’s a big achievement,” says Khera.

“Looking at the degree in box [rather than] receiving it on stage does not feel the same.”