It certainly wasn't the way she envisaged graduating from the University of Aberdeen, but Julia Stockwell's family ensured she still marked the occasion in style.
The Politics and International Relations graduate from just outside Boston, Massachusetts in the USA returned home with many other international students following the outbreak of the pandemic.
“My parents threw me a small, socially-distant surprise graduation party on my ‘original’ graduation date. They went all out with decorations, printing a huge Aberdeen Uni banner and also putting the logo on the cake.
“I was very surprised! My mom made face masks from University of Aberdeen tartan for our guests to wear and take home.
“I had previously accepted the fact that I wouldn't get a university graduation or much of a celebration, so it was very special and meaningful that I was able to celebrate with some family and close friends.”
Twenty-two-year-old Julia’s arrival in Aberdeen was almost as abrupt as her departure, having never visited the city until her first day of term.
“I didn’t visit beforehand, but it turned out to be the right decision!
“I was initially drawn to Aberdeen Uni after reading the Politics and International Relations programme description, but my choice was solidified after searching for photos of campus on google images. King's College and Sir Duncan Rice Library absolutely blew me away and I knew then that I would be happy and motivated to go to my classes everyday - no matter the weather.
“I was also drawn to the grey granite of Aberdeen - I think it is beautiful - shines in both the rain and the sun.”
Although Sir Duncan Rice Library was one of the things that convinced her to study at the University, when it came to actually using the facility, she was hesitant.
“I am afraid of heights and was quite freaked out to go into Sir Duncan Rice Library. Eventually I had to go inside and in my last two years I pretty much lived there, especially while writing my dissertation. My dissertation is definitely my greatest achievement while at Aberdeen Uni.”
Julia says that coming from outside of the EU meant she felt a bit behind her classmates in terms of the knowledge her EU classmates already had about how the UK and EU operated.
"I had to constantly remind myself that I came to Aberdeen to learn what I did not already know about the world I live in. Eventually, I started to catch up with my classmates and participate much more in tutorials. This changed everything! Building my confidence as a student allowed me to thrive in my courses.”
Julia enjoyed a packed schedule during her time in Aberdeen as a member of the Politics and International Relations Society and an editor for Her Campus (an online magazine focussing on women in higher education) and made many friends along the way.
“From academic events to pub crawls, I met many classmates that had similar interests as me, leading to great friendships! I didn't play any sports but I enjoyed walking through campus and, in and around Aberdeen city centre. I absolutely loved visiting the Christmas Market and the German market down at Union Square. I will miss walking below the lights strung between Bon Accord and St. Nicholas during winter."
As with many of students from the class of 2020, there are mixed feelings about the abrupt end to on-campus life and the lack of an in-person graduation ceremony.
“It feels very strange graduating during this time. I left Aberdeen in late March after packing four years of my belongings in about four hours. My immediate family and my grandmother were booked to come to my June graduation - that is the most upsetting part for me. Aside from wearing the cool robe, having my family all together in Aberdeen would have been a dream. We hope to visit together in the future.
“It was of course very upsetting to not say proper goodbyes to the friends I made along the way but I am confident that I will see those close to me in the future. I take comfort knowing that most of the graduates around the world had similar experiences, but most importantly, I take comfort knowing that my "losses" have helped to prevent even greater loss around the world. That's what makes this all okay.”
Next up for Julia is an MA in International Conflict Studies at King's College London, but hopefully with one more stop in Aberdeen beforehand.