The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of human life, from small personal matters such as going out with friends to big political and economic matters such as elections and businesses. Graduation is no exception.
Students all over the world have not been able to celebrate what they were able to successfully complete after years of relentless hard work. There is no question that having gone through a number of late study nights, missed birthdays of loved ones and sacrifices of important dinner invitations, a graduation ceremony is the most anticipated moment in a student’s career. Whoever made it to this day, they earned their place in the finish line and deserve to be recognized for their efforts. The cancellation of the in-person attendance of this most coveted day irks not only the students but also family members, friends and other supporting networks, who made incredible sacrifices to get the graduates to where they are now and have always dreamt of cheering them on during their happy moment on graduation day.
However, as a member of this year’s graduating class, I also believe that the crisis has bestowed upon us the gift of “more time”. Before the pandemic, time was flying and so were we. The world was moving so fast that we have become so caught up with paving the way for our personal success forgetting why and for whom we have been making all the efforts. I hope that the time we spent under lockdown has allowed us to take a step back and contemplate, giving ourselves a chance to explore what it all really means for us as members of the Eritrean society and as professionals in our respective fields.
Personally, self-reflection has made me realize that behind the nice dresses, graduation caps and gowns, tasty food and shiny decorations lies the true meaning of graduation: a fresh start. A fresh start for us and for the whole community we will be serving. The word “graduate” comes from the Latin term “gradus” which means “a step towards something”, showing us that this is the time to take a step forward and harness the knowledge and skills we have acquired in college to serve our communities to the fullest.
After all, why have we been learning and working so hard? To build a better world by coming together and utilizing each and every one of our unique skills and talents. That, of course, demands a great deal of selflessness and love for one another which luckily is not a new concept to the Eritrean society. Our history shows us that selflessness and empathy have been crucial weapons used in overcoming colonialism, war and sanctions and are still proving to lead us along the same trail in the fight against the Corona virus.
We might be graduating without the usual rituals and pomp but that is not what matters because today our country needs us more than ever. At a time when uncertainty, fear and hopelessness are prevalent all over the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our hope, passion, drive, creativity and energy are most necessary to come up with a way forward for us and our fellow Eritreans. We must take this responsibility at heart and work towards building a better nation for all of us.