Mar 2nd, 2021, 10:37 PM

Are Commencements Still a Thing During a Pandemic?

By Yasmine Moriel
AUP Commencement 2017. Image Credit: AUP Communications
With borders closed, AUP students are wondering if Commencement 2021 will still happen

With Commencement 2021 right around the corner, specifically 2 months away, a topic of conversation among my friends has been: who will be attending? And will there even be one? It is without a doubt that the last couple of semesters have been quite unpredictable for AUP. With two lockdowns and a possible third coming soon, along with curfew hours being strictly enforced, students are booking last minute flights back to their home countries and going through a roller-coaster of emotions.

For AUP’s students and parents not from France, this concern has been particularly acute as it is still unclear when the borders will re-open again to Americans. If Commencement were to take place the people attending would most likely be students, faculty and only parents with European citizenship. American parents are disheartened by the idea of not watching their loved ones walk to receive their diploma. Mother of Leah Smith, a graduating senior studying international business,  said, “I feel very disappointed about not being able to come to my daughter’s graduation. I was hoping since I have the vaccine it would be possible to come but I believe borders will be closed. I feel so sad about missing such a momentous occasion.” Mother of Shelsea Moriel, another graduating senior international business student, is also quite disappointed about the situation and said, “We talk about this on the AUP parents’ Facebook group and it seems like us parents have just had to accept the fact that we won’t be able to attend. I am personally very sad because this is my first child that is graduating. Her father and I have worked so hard to get her here and we won’t be able to be there and celebrate. This is a big moment for us and sadly we won’t be there. As a parent I have always dreamt of this day, as it is a huge accomplishment for both my daughter and us.”

Image Credit: AUP Communications

A few days ago, I sent out an email to both a student who I was told was in charge of Commencement details and to Marc Montheard, Vice President for Security, Operations and Student Services asking these questions I have discussed with my friends. Although I never got a reply from either, an email to all students was sent out by President Schenk with details a few days later. The email highlighted the fact that at the moment ,the venue Théâtre du Châtelet is booked, but that plans for in-person commencement is still not guaranteed. The email stated that if Commencement does take place in-person, the school will abide to proper social-distancing and masking regulations. The email mentions that they are hoping to give the AUP community a definitive answer of in-person or a remote-commencement by April 18, 2021.

It is without a doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of distress and disappointment not only to parents but students as well. AUP Senior student Bianca Rodriguez studying international business said, “I had hoped for graduation and it would have been nice to have my family there, especially my mother who is sad about the situation. However, I knew it would be hard because COVID wasn’t controlled that well here in Europe.”

With so much uncertainty in the air, it is still hard to have answers as to what will happen. AUP can only control so much and has to respect the regulations that President Macron is continuously updating. With or without an in-person graduation, the AUP Community is most definitely proud of the graduates of 2021 as they have learned to adapt and succeed during this Pandemic.