Graduating in a COVID-19 World - Articles | APU Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University

Graduating in a COVID-19 World

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Graduating in a COVID-19 World

Going into my final semester at APU, I had so many adventures planned but then the pandemic struck, and so much changed. At the time, while most other students in their last semester were job-hunting, I had decided I wanted to continue my academic studies in Spain and was preparing for this move. But I had to quickly adapt to the new world and overcome many challenges—from adjusting to online classes to figuring out how to continue with my post-graduation plan.

With only a few months to go until graduation, I decided to focus my time on studying Spanish while finishing my thesis. I had reached the most advanced Spanish class APU offers and was relieved to see that the class was only twice a week as language classes at APU are usually four days a week. Plus, since classes had switched to online, I would no longer have to go all the way to campus, freeing up more time to study on my own. However, after the semester actually began, I soon realized that I missed the face-to-face interaction that in-person classes offered. With online classes, I could not practice Spanish with my peers in the same way I had previously, and I started to lose motivation. In a typical in-person language class, I easily made new friends and interacted with the whole class through activities, but now everyone was just a face on a screen, and I could see that my friends felt the same way. And with that, the whole class felt less engaging.

But I wouldn’t let this defeat me. With the extra time I had staying home, I came up with new ways to stay motivated in my Spanish class, such as using my video editing skills on my homework. I began to see every speaking practice assignment as a new video project, where I could be as creative as I wanted. This actually helped me a lot from being bored while staying home all the time. For example, I had to make a presentation about a country and I chose a rather unusual place: “Procrasti-Nation”. Instead of just recording slides with a voice over, I incorporated little videos to demonstrate what is it like being a procrastinator!

Besides my Spanish studies and adventures in thesis writing, which is a topic for a whole other blog, I also had to keep planning ahead for the next academic semester in Europe. My dream is to get a master’s degree in media studies in Spain, and so I started the graduate school application process in January, but when COVID-19 started spreading across the globe, all of my plans were either postponed or canceled. It was especially difficult communicating with my professors about having my writing checked and reference letters done now that I couldn’t visit in person during office hours. It also became difficult to contact the universities I was applying to as they also started implementing work-from-home policies and at the same time, the virus outbreak was very serious in Spain. This led to many announcements that graduate programs I was considering were being switched to online for the upcoming semester, and some universities even decided to cancel some programs for the 2021 academic year.

I submitted several applications, but with so much uncertainty, I had a lot of anxiety and was so eager to have everything done and my future plans decided as soon as possible. But thanks to the help of family and friends, I tried my best to stay calm and patiently await my results. Finally, I got accepted to the Universitat of Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona—my first school of choice because of their specialties in media studies. I was so thrilled and quickly began looking into life there and imagining about my whole year there. However, my plans quickly changed due to the current situation; I found out my first trimester will be online so I will be taking classes from Japan to start out, and my stay in Spain will be shortened to six months once I am able to travel there rather than the full year I had been envisioning.

More recently, I’ve been working on completing my visa procedures. It was so scary to go around to various places to get all my paperwork done during the pandemic, but I had no choice. I tried my best to be in contact with as few people as possible by not using public transportation and by riding my bike instead. It was so tiring and nerve-racking, but I managed to finish everything in time. My strategy was just to plan ahead for the next day, every day. And as I continued with my paperwork, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss anything, that way my long bike rides wouldn’t be a waste. On the bright side, I now have a checklist for everything and always make sure to double-check it! I am now waiting to receive my visa in order to go to Spain this December.

And now I have made it to graduation, but I can definitively say my last semester is not at all what I had imagined it would be. I finished all my classes, especially my Spanish class, with flying colors, I got an award for having an “Outstanding Thesis”, and I finally got into the university I wanted! I am not only surprised but also amazed with what I accomplished despite the pandemic and all the changes I had to deal with along the way. Of course, I wish I could have gone on different adventures, joined different projects, and done an internship as I had originally planned, but instead I managed to adapt to all the hurdles quickly thrown at me.

The 2020 pandemic is not ideal for anyone, but I think this time provides opportunities for us to try something new and challenge ourselves to thrive despite these circumstances. For myself and hopefully the rest of the graduating class, I believe that if we can graduate and overcome the adversities we faced during the pandemic, we can do anything.

Photos featured are courtesy of APU Student Social Media Unit members.



Ha Anh Luu (Onion) is an APU graduate from Hanoi, Vietnam, a member of the APU Social Media Unit, and a passionate photographer in and out of school. As an upcoming grad student at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain, she spends her days reading philosophy and learning Spanish, but she also enjoys memes and hour-long naps.


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