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International Students and Their Plans for Graduation

By Cate Fox (Reporter ‘23)

2020 and 2021 have been years that have robbed many traditions and experiences from people, especially high school students. There are so many seniors whose graduation will have to be changed to fit the COVID safety guidelines. Despite these guidelines, many seniors will still be able to experience a sense of closure from high school. However, many international seniors—because coming to America is quite inconvenient—won’t get the same chance to have a real, in-person graduation.

Twyla Zhang, an international senior, expressed her thoughts on senior year as graduation nears. As many know, the seniors are getting ready to start their senior projects, a five-week period dedicated solely to senior’s interests. For Twyla’s senior project, she will be expressing her passion for photography: “I choose to take photos in my city and capture the city’s spirit. I plan to do research and take pictures of the representative landscapes or sceneries there. I chose this because I just started studying photography this year and I am really interested in it. The senior project could be a great opportunity for me to strengthen my skills of photography. Another reason is that I am unfamiliar with my city, and I hope that I could use this chance to explore it.” Twyla is lucky as her senior project will not be affected by COVID. She has been able to find something that both interests her and fits into the safety precautions.

Though this year has been hard on all of the seniors, the international students in particular have dealt with uniquely difficult challenges. COVID has prevented these students from being able to experience the typical benefits of being a senior. Twyla expressed, “I was really looking forward to taking advantage of eating lunch outside of school, senior skip days, and other activities that seniors can enjoy.” By not being able to experience a normal senior year, Twyla also feels that “[her] overall high school life is kind of incomplete.” This is further emphasized by the fact that Twyla and many other international students won’t be able to attend graduation or have the same opportunity to formally close their time at Friends’ Central.

As Twyla explained, flying to America from China is extremely difficult right now. She stated: “Unfortunately, I don’t plan on going back to campus for graduation. If I could, I will be very willing to attend the graduation, but for now, flying from China to the U.S. is still hard and inconvenient. Of course, it is such a shame not to be here for graduation, but I hope that the online graduation can compensate a little bit.” Although Twyla was not able to spend her last year on campus, she has been able to focus on the bright side of things by looking forward to online graduation. She even said, “The positive thing [with staying at home for school] is that I can spend more time with my family and friends in China. It is a unique way to spend my senior year at home. No matter how well or how bad it goes, I believe that this year is a special and memorable time.” Even though this year has been different in many ways, Twyla and many other international seniors will always remember their senior year as being unique as they head towards their future.

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