I am an international student from Sweden and in my country we don’t have a ceremony after graduation. Therefore, one of the most exciting aspects of studying in the U.S. for me was walking in an official graduation ceremony.
I would be able to attend an “American Dream,” namely the commencement ceremony wearing the black cap and gown.
However, I happen to be graduating early from California Lutheran University and guess what? There is no ceremony for students who graduate during the fall. This is very unfortunate, especially when paying for tuition at a private institution such as Cal Lutheran.
This needs to change and students who graduate in December deserve a graduation too.
“I feel like it is very sad. I’m graduating before Christmas, and must come back four months after they have graduated [to attend the ceremony],” international student Annica Norrie Moe said.
I am experiencing the same problem. This is not only frustrating because of the fact that I am going to leave the U.S. with a student loan of $106, 470.00 without even having attended the commencement ceremony, but also because education is free in Sweden.
Yes, American students probably think to themselves that my student loan is normal after all but it is expensive for a Swede. I thought I would at least get a graduation ceremony included in the tuition.
Of course, an additional commencement ceremony will cost Cal Lutheran money, but a smaller ceremony may be worth it.
“It takes a tremendous amount of work, time and expense to plan commencement,” Provost Leanne Neilson said. “In fact, it takes faculty and staff all year to prepare in order to have everything in place.”
Still, I wanted to walk in a ceremony, so I asked if I would be able to attend the graduation ceremony in May 2016, but finish my courses in the summer.
“We did at one time allow students who were completing their studies in the fall, to petition to walk the previous May,” Neilson said. “We found that 95 percent of those students either did not finish when they said they would or never finished. So we no longer offer that option.”
After all, who wants to attend the commencement ceremony six months before the graduation anyway? The whole point of graduating and attending the ceremony is to finally close that never ending book and start a new chapter in life.
“It will feel a little weird to come back after four months and be like, ‘now I am going to graduate,’ when the natural way of doing it is to attend the ceremony right after graduation,” Norrie Moe said.
Of course the issue comes down to money. International students who don’t plan on staying in the U.S. after recieving their degree have to fly back to Cal Lutheran to attend the graduation ceremony in May. Let’s think about that.
“Yes, they must travel back after only four months, and it costs money,” Norrie Moe said. “The flight ticket back to LA, and the living will cost a lot of money.”
Norrie Moe will be graduating during the winter 2016, but she is one of those international students who will have her optional practical training or work Visa until after graduation.
“I will attend the ceremony in May because I think it is a fun thing, and for me it is important to attend the ceremony,” Norrie Moe said. “I will be here [in Los Angeles] because I will be having OPT, and I would like to stay in the U.S., so then it will not be a problem for me to attend [the commencement ceremony].”
After all, it is the international students who increase the awareness of Cal Lutheran around the world, and contribute a diverse atmosphere to the school. Maybe it is time for Cal Lutheran to invest money in a winter graduation.
“Cal Lutheran highly values international students for many reasons,” Neilson said. “Only a fraction of American students study abroad so having international students on campus provides domestic students with important exposure to different cultures and ways of thinking.”
According to Cal Lutheran’s mission statement, the school appreciates diversity and students with innovative ideas.
“We strive to prepare reflective, principled educators who are secure in their own identities, who acknowledge their own predispositions, biases and limitations, and are open to engage in dialogue and examine ideas that may be new or unfamiliar. They actively incorporate their student’s background and experience into learning opportunities and activities,” the Cal Lutheran Mission Statement states.
At last, the “American Dream” is true after all, and should be appreciated
“It has always been a dream of mine [to attend the graduation ceremony],” Norrie Moe said. “As a child [in Norway] you could see it in the American movies, when they throw their caps up in the air.”
Published April 27th, 2016