Huang is a graduate of Duke University with a bachelor’s degree in economics and computer science. He lives in Carmel Valley.
Graduation gave us a glimpse into normalcy. While we were still socially distanced, limited to bringing two guests, and masked up during our ceremony at Duke University, seeing everyone together and gathered for a celebration was reminiscent of the university-wide events that we used to all enjoy together.
It was by no means a normal graduation, but we were able to come together and celebrate each other’s resilience and tenacity over the last year. To finally be together for graduation brought a great sense of togetherness and happiness that we hadn’t experienced in over a year.
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My last normal Duke experience was the Duke-University of North Carolina basketball game in March 2020, when we were packed like sardines in the bleachers. I haven’t seen that many of us together since that game, and just thinking about being that close together is such a foreign concept nowadays.
I’ll never forget cracking jokes with my friends during the entire ceremony or sprinting to the aisle to catch a glimpse of John Legend, our commencement speaker, walking toward the stage. A proper graduation gave us a chance to say goodbye and see you later to our friends, a chance to close this chapter in our lives together. I’m so grateful that we had this opportunity to process these thoughts and feelings together and get closure from our amazing four years at Duke.
Our graduation marked the end of a quite different senior year. Some of my friends didn’t return to campus in the fall, most of my classes were held virtually, and the social scene changed drastically. Even so, we still had the best year of our lives made up of many days and nights exploring Durham, North Carolina; the flexibility of virtual classes; weekend trips to different cities, and just being together with those I care most about. I will forever cherish all the memories that were made during this year.
Even though it has been such a great year and graduation experience, there are still constant reminders of the pandemic. My friends and I let go of hopes of a southeast Asia graduation tour a long time ago. What seems like a no-brainer trip to Taiwan to visit my family is burdened by travel restrictions, quarantines and lockdowns — even as a Taiwanese citizen. I’m starting full-time work in August and don’t really know when the next time that I’ll be able to see my relatives will be.
Nonetheless, I’m still hopeful of normalcy and grateful for all the experiences I have had. I was able to fly my family from San Diego to Durham to show them where home has been for the last four years and walk across the field in my cap and gown. My friends and I are all vaccinated and about to leave on a grad trip to Hawaii. So while graduating during the pandemic has not been ideal, it has still been an amazing experience and I wouldn’t have traded the past year for anything else.