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“We’ve got to go out with a bang”: University of Toronto students on what it means to celebrate graduation in person

By Andrew Oliphant| Photography by Joshua Best

Graduation season is finally upon us. And, for the first time in over two years, students across the city are back for in-person convocations. After years of remote coursework and virtual graduation gatherings, this year’s ceremonies feel especially sweet. Last Friday, we met up with students from the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus to hear what they had to say about walking the stage.


Jejociny Consalas, 22, major in molecular biology, minor in psychology and French
"We've got to go out with a bang": University of Toronto students on what it means to celebrate graduation in person

What does it mean to have an in-person graduation ceremony? It’s a special feeling because I get to see other graduates celebrating with me and see my family proud and happy on this day. My parents didn’t get the opportunity to be educated in Sri Lanka because of the war, and I’m privileged to go to university here.

Do you have a favourite on-campus memory? I got an award for making a significant contribution to campus life. That was one of the best moments of my life.

Any celebration plans? I think my family has something planned for me.


Ilakkiah Chandran, 23, double major in neuroscience and psychology, minor in biology
"We've got to go out with a bang": University of Toronto students on what it means to celebrate graduation in person

What does it mean to have an in-person graduation ceremony? It commemorates all the hard work I did. Being online for the last two years was difficult. There was the added pain of being a student while also having to do everything from home. So being able to celebrate with my family, friends and some mentors who are here today is really great.

Do you have a favourite on-campus memory? We had these Zoom sessions called Tuesday Talks where a professor would join students in a podcast-style conversation. It was really nice to have those laughs outside of the classroom and for professors and students to see one another as people.

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Any celebration plans? I have plans with my family to go out for dinner. I don’t know where yet. They’re keeping it a secret.


Ajay Shaan Ramgoolam, 23, major in math
"We've got to go out with a bang": University of Toronto students on what it means to celebrate graduation in person

What does it mean to have an in-person graduation ceremony? Honestly, it’s great. I’m glad I didn’t have to do it online. It feels much more special and real now that we get to do it in person, and I’m really excited for that. Going back to campus last semester was a good feeling.

Do you have a favourite on-campus memory? A couple of my friends and I would be in the math office until late at night, like 11 p.m. sometimes. Just working, grinding, studying. We’d be hanging out, laughing in between our studying.

Any celebration plans? I have some family coming over for a couple of drinks. Finishing off these long six years, we’ve got to go out with a bang.


Johnathan Ephraim, 25, double major in statistics and sociology
"We've got to go out with a bang": University of Toronto students on what it means to celebrate graduation in person

What does it mean to have an in-person graduation ceremony? It’s everything, man. I could have graduated last year, but I deferred just so I could have this in-person graduation. It means a lot to my family. It’s a real culmination of my work and time here. I’m happy to share it with my friends and family.

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Do you have a favourite on-campus memory? I made a lot of connections with my professors. I frequented office hours, which helped me bridge the gap between professors and students. In my first year I was a little bit shy, but I had one prof who was very welcoming. She had a lot of treats and stuff, and she would watch America’s Got Talent during office hours. It wasn’t what you’d expect office hours to be like.

Any celebration plans? I’m celebrating with my family. There are some family members I haven’t seen in a few years. So we’re all getting together to share a moment. I feel like this is the biggest moment that I could share with other people.


Sarah Al-as, 20, double major in human biology and health studies
"We've got to go out with a bang": University of Toronto students on what it means to celebrate graduation in person

What does it mean to have an in-person graduation ceremony? It means so much. I feel like I get to have the full experience of going to school and graduating. Just seeing everyone I’ve never seen before, it’s like, “Wow, okay. There are so many of us.”

Do you have a favourite on-campus memory? I think, with the pandemic, it would have to be my first year because I actually did get to go in person then. And this semester, when we got to go back to class in person, it was just amazing.

Any celebration plans? I’m going travelling for two months. I’m doing a tour around Europe and then going back home to Algeria.

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Alexander Petrogiani, 35, major in mental health
"We've got to go out with a bang": University of Toronto students on what it means to celebrate graduation in person

What does it mean to have an in-person graduation ceremony? I think an in-person graduation ceremony means more to people than we realize. Today was not just an auspicious day, it was a very empowering day, to be together with our fellow classmates. It was really nice to have it in person. A lot of my friends who are still online really envied us being back. So it was a beautiful blessing across the board.

Do you have a favourite on-campus memory? It’s definitely the bonds I formed with my friends, because you can’t really get through university without those close bonds. I think that, through hard work, you can form real friendships with people who are willing to collaborate with you, which is really how we’re going to connect in the future rather than being competitive.

Any celebration plans? We’re heading to Hanlan’s Point Beach to see the sunset. We’re going to open our hearts and we’re going to clear our minds. We’re probably going to sleep there. And we’re going write a poem about it.


Vidya Ananda, 22, major in computer science
"We've got to go out with a bang": University of Toronto students on what it means to celebrate graduation in person

What does it mean to have an in-person graduation ceremony? It means a lot because I spent so long studying for my degree and I really wanted to have that moment of walking on stage, having my name called and waving to my parents. I also wanted to wear the academic regalia because I’ve never worn anything like this before and it feels super special.

Do you have a favourite on-campus memory? In my third year, I had to build a project for an automated parking company. It really stuck out to me because I did that course on the downtown campus, so I didn’t know any of my classmates, but we instantly clicked. We made a really cool project and earned an awesome final grade.

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Any celebration plans? I’m going to go out for pizza and then get some crêpes. Tomorrow I’ll probably go to an Indian restaurant with family.


Sameela Jilani, 21, double major in human biology and molecular biology
"We've got to go out with a bang": University of Toronto students on what it means to celebrate graduation in person

What does it mean to have an in-person graduation ceremony? It was great. The mask kind of sucked but other than that it was great.

Do you have a favourite on-campus memory? I met some of the best people—my friends and other amazing individuals. I had a lot of spiritual growth that I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t come here. 

Any celebration plans? I’ll maybe meet some of my friends tonight, depending on what my family is doing. It sucks because I’m the only one in my friend group who’s graduating this year. Most of them are graduating next year, but I’m probably going to meet up with them today.

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