How international students experience graduation differently | The Triangle

How international students experience graduation differently

Photo by Evie Touring | The Triangle

Since May dawned upon us, the Drexel campus is alive with the contagious excitement of graduation season, bringing about a frenzy among all on campus. Students walk around in their gowns, cords and distinctly decorated caps to pose with a smile in front of Mario the Dragon. I try not to photobomb the doting parents taking their child’s photo as I walk to class and sometimes offer to take a picture for them so that all the members of the family are in one picture. As I take their photo, I can not help but wonder if my own graduation would be as memorable. The thought of my own graduation fills me with a mix of excitement and apprehension. Will my family be there to capture the moment? If not, will I feel the same sense of pride and accomplishment as in the faces of those around me? There is a lingering sense of doubt of what my graduation experience will hold amidst the joyous celebration. 

Attending a graduation ceremony with our parents is a core memory for most of us; but for some, this is not possible. Graduating without your family there, to cheer you on while walking up on stage and getting your diploma, is certainly a hard thing to digest. To bring into light, international students who live hundreds of kilometers away from their parents, often undergo this sorrowful event. Attending the convocation ceremony while getting their picture taken by a friend is their memorable graduation. Sometimes, I have seen parents who due to financial constraints cannot be with them in person, watching their sweet children walk up on stage through a phone screen. Elsewise, they are escorted by their family friends or relatives to compensate for the loss of their parents at the ceremony. Conversely, the absence of these students’ parents at their graduation does not leave them heartbroken, as they are aware their parents are celebrating them from afar, as they have done for many years. The long-distance emotional connection keeps their bond intact. I know for a fact that I would want to have my parents at my graduation because they are the ones who support me in everything. A photo with them at the ceremony would sit on my nightstand for years and years to come. But if this is not possible, I would totally understand. 

Although the parents of these wonderful achievers leave a few seats empty at the convocation, their love and support take up more space than the biggest auditorium could hold. These students have to remember that the absence of their parents at graduation does not diminish their achievements, but rather adds to people’s knowledge that they persevered in spite of the challenges. Graduation is the conclusion to the years of their hard work, dedication and perseverance and at the end of the day, we have to remember that graduation is not just a milestone made by the presence of loved ones in the audience, but rather the everlasting bond of family support steadfast.