Dear Class of 2020

Well. This is unexpected.

I remember at the beginning of March I was finishing writing my 8000-word final-year dissertation. The relief and sense of achievement that washed over me after I submitted it -after all those months of planning, researching and writing balanced with other coursework, lectures and social time, I had finally completed and submitted it.

Naturally, I transitioned into an empty-minded stare, allowing that all to sink in, then I decided I needed to celebrate. I got up and sorted myself out (so I didn’t look quite so much like a student who’d just pulled an all-nighter tweaking her dissertation less than 24 hours before it was due...) and walked the trek from my student house to the convenience shop below me. I grabbed enough chocolate, sweets and crisps for a party (because I earned it), and proceeded to stuff my face whilst contacting my University friends to see how they were doing. We celebrated our accomplishments and agreed that we never wanted to see our dissertation papers ever again.

Fast forward a few weeks towards the end of March, and the UK goes into lockdown, along with the rest of the world. Suddenly, celebrating alone doesn’t seem so appealing as we’re now forced into it. Lectures went online, completing our final year exams (the most important exams of our lives) became complicated and our graduation, our coming together to celebrate not just our degree but our years of developing into adults, was postponed (a nice way of saying cancelled).

Everything had changed.

The number of deaths continued to rise, panic buying became a thing, depression and anxiety increased, and everyone was thrown into an unexpected situation. Not everything was bad though; environmental pollution fell, the government stepped in to help those who couldn’t go to work, we had the saviour that is the internet, the NHS finally got the recognition it thoroughly deserved, and people came together for the greater good to spread positivity, resilience and love.

This year, the graduates of 2020 have been forced to get creative and celebrate graduation in their own unique ways, trying to make the best of the situation. We are all in the same boat this year, all around the world, bringing graduates from all walks of life together for the first time in history. And that is pretty special.

We’re getting through it. We may not be getting through it together physically, but we are remotely. More than ever, I’m so thankful I live in this technological age, because in the midst of a pandemic, staring into the face of racial injustice, not having a formal graduation ceremony with our friends and family after years of working our hardest, we have never been more interactive as a community and as a species. With video calls, social media, televised broadcasts and the internet in general, we may have finished our education apart, but we have never been more connected.

Until being forced to watch lectures online, cancel all physical socialising and complete final year exams in my bedroom, I did not appreciate how remarkable human beings are. There’s no doubt that technology has changed the world. I can’t even imagine how we would have coped through the pandemic without it. And now, as graduates in the most unexpected, unbelievable, apocalyptic (well, it feels like it some days) circumstances, we can start the next chapter of our lives with the knowledge that we too can achieve the remarkable.

We can fill this tired, divided world with acceptance, peace, respect and love that future generations will thank us for.

Our generation can learn from past generation’s mistakes and make this world beautiful. We can be the generation that made a difference. We have the most amazing opportunity compared to any generation before ours, and because we have managed to graduate through the worst of circumstances, it shows that we can do anything.

We can fill this tired, divided world with acceptance, peace, respect and love that future generations will thank us for. The tools have already been provided for us: a communication system spanning the globe, previously suppressed issues now coming to the surface, begging for change, and our own educated opinions and experiences moulding us into who we are as adults.

Now, we can fix our environment, the discrimination and threats of violence in this world, and replace them with messages of peace, of love and acceptance to heal humanity and this planet.

We are a new generation.

We are a unique generation.

We can finally have our voices heard and, together, we will achieve something remarkable.

We can change this world for the better.

Even without a formal graduation we can be proud of what we have achieved and what we will go on to achieve. Luckily, we can still grab the people next to us and hug them until our arms ache, we can still call our friends and family and rejoice in celebration with them, and we can still party in our own special, socially distanced way. Because, above all, whether it’s in a ceremony hall, a shed or our living room, we deserve to celebrate our graduation.

So, to the generation celebrating diversity and embracing everyone, to the generation choosing peace over violence, to the generation with the courage to open up much needed conversations; we applaud you. As a generation, we have laid the foundations with the intentions of building up new solutions in which everyone is accounted for and appreciated, even during a crisis.

With plenty of hard work and determination, I believe our generation could be remembered as the generation that changed the world for the better.

So, here’s to us, class of 2020, graduating from home during a pandemic, proving our resilience yet having the opportunity - the privilege - of paving the way for future generations.

Cheers, to every graduate of 2020. We deserve to be proud of our accomplishments, and I look forward to what this class and generation will achieve in the future.

- Jess

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