Graduates of the Nantong Vocational College of Science and Technology, East China’s Jiangsu Province pose for a photo in front of a memory board, May 16. Photo by Feng Kaimin/People’s Daily Online

By Wang Yunna, People’s Daily

The COVID-19 pandemic is making this year’s graduation season different for China’s 8.74 million college graduates, and the college graduates have decided to make it special.

After completing online thesis defense on June 1, Ning Jiajun, a senior student from the College of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering under Central South University (CSU), suggested in the chat group of his class to “take” graduation photos online, and his suggestion sparked warm response from his classmates, who couldn’t return to the campus due to the epidemic.

“I can draw cartoon caps and gowns and place add-ons to make the photo cuter.” He Jialei, the monitor of Ning’s class, who’s also a painting enthusiast, volunteered to join the online graduation photo service.

Ning collected the headshots of all his 28 classmates and removed the background parts with an image editing software. He later pasted them to the cartoon graduation gowns drawn by He, and used photos of landmark buildings of the campus as backgrounds.

In less than three days, a graduation photo album was finished, and every picture comes with a memorable background – the gate of the campus, the lawn where they had the first class meeting, etc., carrying a ton of beautiful memories of their four college years.

The graduation photo album will be delivered to each student to make the graduation solemn, said Fan Fan, an instructor for the graduates this year with the university’s College of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. Every class has designed such an album, and it includes the messages from college leaders and teachers, as well as the photos of the students have taken in the past four years, he explained.

“According to CSU’s arrangement, the graduates will return to the campus in batches, so it’s difficult for them to get together before graduation,” Fan said.

“It’s a pity that we hardly have the time to get together again before we separate,” said He Xianchen, a student in Ning’s class, while his classmate Xue Huiying noted that the smiles on their faces were the best memory of her college life. In the eyes of their instructor Yi Xiaoyi, the class was united, friendly and warming. He also sent his blessings to the students when looking at the familiar faces in the album.

According to Fan, the college promised that each graduate can go back to school at any time after COVID-19 ends to take graduation photos in caps and gowns, as a way to make it up to the students who can’t do it this year, and a graduation T-shirt will also be provided for each student.

Besides, a graduation party, a tradition of the college, is scheduled to be held online for the students to share their joys.

At present, 60 percent of the students in the class have been enrolled as postgraduates, and the rest are about to get their foot in the door.

“From this graduation season, we feel more care from our university and cherish more our college life and friendship,” Ning said, hoping that his classmates can recall their college memories whenever they open the album. “Youth is eternal, and so our friendship is,” he said.

File Photo shows a cartoon-version graduation photo template offered by the Central South University in Changsha, capital of Central China’s Hunan Province.

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