Virtual Graduation Ceremony for Indian Students in US Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Thousands of Indian students, along with their friends and family across the US and India, on Friday attended a one-of-its-kind virtual graduation ceremony for their class of 2020, in an event that was reflective of the ground realities during the coronavirus pandemic.

"These unprecedented times are also times of unprecedented opportunities. Innovation is a part of the journey ahead and you will be the pioneers who shape the world," India's Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu said in his address to the students.

Organised by the Embassy of India Student Hub, the event was aimed at recognising the students' academic accomplishments and boosting their morale in the face of the continuing uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, in-person graduation ceremonies across the US have been cancelled this year. Notable figures like singer and entrepreneur Lalitya Munshaw, actress Gautami Tadimalla, tabla maestro Pt Divyang Vakil, former director of AIIMS P Venugopal, IPS officer and mountaineer Aparna Kumar, and Mahatma Gandhi's granddaughter and peace activist Ela Gandhi sent messages of hope and inspiration to the graduating students.

"There are over 2,00,000 Indian students in the United States. The Class of 2020 is not able to participate in a normal graduation ceremony which is an occasion of great celebration at the end of academic programme," Sandhu said.

The India Student Hub has taken the initiative to organise a virtual graduation for them, he said, adding that the students have been through a challenging time and have shown tremendous resilience.

"They will be the future innovators, entrepreneurs, doctors and scientists. We wish them all the best and success," Sandhu said.

Noting that studying abroad is a dream for many students, a 2020 graduate from University of California Berkeley School of Law, Vismay Malkan, said not having a proper graduation ceremony makes one heartbroken.

"This virtual ceremony really cheered me up and made me feel proud that I belong to this beautiful country (India). All the best wishes from the family of my fellow graduate students were a reflection of the hopes that the country has from us. I wish I could give my best to the country, Malkan said.

New York University's Tandon School of Engineering 2020 graduate Dhruv Avdhesh said that for many of the international students, like him, preparations for the big day begins months in advance.

"This year is unprecedented in many ways, but the grit and resilience of the Class of 2020 will make the world a better place! he said.

"It was so good to see everyone and their parents - it actually felt like one big family coming together! said University of Massachusetts, Boston 2020 graduate Hem Vijay Shah.

Parents of the new graduates also sent their own messages of encouragement to the Class of 2020. Sanjeev Kaul, father of Georgetown University graduate Prerna Kaul, said, You have endless potential. Be what you want to be. Continue doing what you want to do and always try to be a good person.

Hemant Shah also wrote: It's time to give back... now and make the world a better place to live and serve.... make it large

Sunakshi Chowdhary, Embassy of India Student Hub volunteer and graduation celebration organiser, said that the virtual graduation ceremony was created as a gift for the Class of 2020.