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US college seniors are losing out by graduating during the pandemic

Anya Sinha, a senior at the University of California, San Diego wonít get to say a proper goodbye to a campus thatís been a second home
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   26-05-2020

Anya Sinha
Anya Sinha

The green 1,976-acre University of California, San Diego (UCSD) campus lies alongside the Pacific Ocean and utilizes a quarter-based academic calendar. Like her peers who are graduating soon, Anya Sinha who is a senior at UCSD, was looking forward to her final months of college.

Sadly, US college seniors find their lives upended with campuses abruptly closed and classes moved online. UCSD has declared it will hold its virtual commencement ceremony on June 13 to “acknowledge the strength and resilience of the Class of 2020.” The virtual ceremony will include a commencement address from Emmy award-winning journalist Bill Whitaker, as well as the conferral of degrees by Chancellor Pradeep K Khosla, and the traditional tassel turn.

UCSD was officially founded in 1960, but its origins can be traced as far back as the late 1800s when it was used as a marine field station set up by UC Berkeley. As part of the ten-campus family under the University of California, it is famous for its research-driven curriculum and is one of the top 15 research universities in the world. It boasts a faculty that includes 16 Nobel laureates, as well as Pulitzer, Tony and Academy award winners.   

“I’ve always been fascinated by how the human mind works,” says Sinha, who is pursuing a Psychology major combined with a Theatre minor at UCSD. Sinha shares her unique insights with Braingain Magazine from the vantage point of having spent four years as an undergrad at the hallowed grounds of University of California, San Diego.

How has Covid-19 impacted your senior year?

It has impacted us seniors in the worst way possible as we are in our last quarter and getting ready to graduate. Aside from the interruption to our curriculum, we will not get a chance to enjoy the traditions of a formal graduation, nor do we get to bond with our friends and classmates who will disperse in various directions once we graduate.

As far as my education is concerned, I am fortunate that my Psychology major classes were near completion so the impact was not as bad as it has been for my Theatre minor classes; production of a play is a requirement for graduation and so we have had to improvise since that’s not a possibility in the current situation. Then there are classes like our Shakespeare class which is not as effective as it had potential to be, face-to-face.

Why did you opt to stay on in the US instead of returning to India?

It was not an option to return to India for various reasons. Firstly, my sister lives and works close by so I have a support system here. Secondly, I did not want to disrupt my education by going back to India and working in a different time zone. It would have put a dent in my course work. There is also the fact that I am expected to pay full tuition in spite of the current situation including recreational and campus fees, so I figured I’d stick it out until the end of the final semester.

Why was UCSD the school of choice and was it a good one?

Applications to the schools within the UC system have to be made individually and can spiral into an expensive affair, so I applied only to my top two. My first choice was UC Berkeley but like the vast majority of students at UCSD, I was offered my second choice. I believe finding the college and your community that’s the right fit for you is key to your college experience. I’m in Thurgood Marshall College, which is defined by its social justice ideals and in hindsight has worked exceedingly well for me.

One of the best parts of going to school at UCSD is its location. San Diego is a beautiful city with the beach only ten minutes away from campus, so we get the best views of the sunset over the Pacific. The campus is a little away from downtown San Diego, and although the public transport system is not the best, one can take a bus almost anywhere. San Diego has, arguably the best Mexican food as well as a very rich cultural heritage.

Most of my favorite professors and classes at UCSD have been in classes relating to social justice and intersectionality. I am upset to have my last quarter so shaken up and not being able to give a proper goodbye to UCSD. I loved my time here! It was a great four years even with all the usual ups and downs.

What made you choose the unusual combination of Psychology with a Theatre minor?

Although I didn’t really have any specific plan while choosing Psychology as my major, I’ve always been fascinated by how the human mind works. Psychology and behavior are thought provoking subjects to me, and I knew that I wanted the opportunity to explore it even back in high school.

The Theatre minor happened quite randomly. I had to take a film class for one of my fine arts requirements for college, and it sparked an interest. I found myself signing up for more film classes and gradually branched out to trying out acting classes. The classes were interesting, and I was excelling in them, so I decided to opt for a minor in theatre. I liked that the theatre classes forced me to step outside my comfort zone and I stopped being afraid of embarrassing myself once I realized we were all in the same boat. Theatre students tend to build a community on shared experiences and help each other out and that contributed greatly to keeping me engaged. This theatre program is one of the best in the country, and there’s an added bonus; theatre students get $5 tickets to the amazing plays held at their Playhouse.

What do you do for fun on and off campus?

University of California
University of California, San Diego will hold its virtual commencement ceremony on June 13 to recognize "the resilience of the Class of 2020.”

UCSD brags about its diversity, but the vast majority of international students are either South Asian or East-Asian international students, which is why it has several Indian and international student organizations. The Indian student organizations lean towards American Indian culture that include various dance clubs. Most international Indian students find their niche and gravitate to a community within these clubs.

UCSD is nicknamed UC Socially Dead, because it’s so heavily focused on schoolwork, being majorly STEM and research focused. The classes are challenging, and the quarterly system increases the coursework substantially. Not to say that there aren’t any parties or social experiences, but if you’re looking for a school where you can party like they do in the movies, UCSD is not the place for you.

There are social and cultural aspects of UCSD that I was drawn to like their cultural and art festivals. This year they hosted their first international symposium of indigenous writers and their critics. It was a great way to learn about different experiences that are usually erased from mainstream narratives.

UCSD often has small and intimate shows of artists and more elaborate affairs like the Sun God Festival, an annual music festival, which is considered their own version of Coachella. In the past artists like Khalid and Hayley Kiyoko amongst others, have performed live.

What would you consider your most valuable experience during your time at UCSD?

I was fortunate enough to study abroad the summer of my sophomore year when I took two psychology courses in Greece. It was by far the most amazing experience and one that I did not think would happen due to financial reasons, but UCSD helped me find scholarships that covered my program. The courses included a few lectures, but it was mostly field trips. After a few hours of classes, we were often left to explore the place on our own. Our accompanying professor allowed us to enjoy the history and culture of the country rather than focus on memorizing our syllabus for an exam. I’m so grateful I was able to go as I formed some of my closest friends during that trip.

What are your plans and aspirations for the future?

I aim to get a Masters in my field someday but am hoping to get some hands-on experience as an ABA therapist (behavioral technician for children with Autism) in the interim.



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