Instead of taking a triumphant walk across the stage and tossing caps in the air amid a sea of classmates, Wu Yu'ang, a 23-year-old student from Hefei University of Technology, attended his graduation ceremony via his laptop at home.
The special ceremony was partially virtual, with fewer than 400 graduates and a few teachers physically present, wearing masks, and more than 9,600 students in attendance online. "It's a pity to be absent, yet the livestreaming allowed us to experience this ritual at home, and share our feelings online by posting comments, which is one of the best ways during this extraordinary period," said Wu. Wu is among a total of 8.74 million students in China who are expected to graduate from college this year. Due to COVID-19, many universities host virtual graduation ceremonies to make up for their students' regrets. Just like many college graduates, Wu once conceived several plans for this milestone in his life. "I planned to have a graduation trip with my friends and then take some innovative photos with my classmates," he said. Those plans were all suspended due to the epidemic. However, the necessary processes and rituals for graduation were still in place. "Although we can't get together to take a graduation photo as we are required to return to school in batches, we plan to create a vlog separately when we get back, and edit it into a complete video, which is also memorable," said Wu. A recent survey conducted by the China Youth Daily found that 88.6 percent of new Chinese college graduates celebrated their graduation in digital form amid the COVID-19 epidemic. They did this by making graduation videos, watching graduation ceremonies and buying academicals online. At Anhui Medical College in east China's Anhui Province, a livestreaming graduation party attracted some 16,000 viewers across the nation. Thirty-four students and teachers sang songs in the college, and another 132 students performed a virtual chorus at their homes. "We recorded our respective parts at home in advance, and finally integrated them into a complete chorus," said Chen Chunhong, one of the participants of the event. "Seeing the comments and wishes posted by my classmates online, it seems like they are right here by my side. This is the best graduation gift for me." In Changchun, capital of northeast China's Jilin Province, students from Changchun Institute of Technology recreated the entire school in a computer game, allowing students and teachers to visit the campus, attend the graduation ceremony and take photos. The developers also added many familiar roles, including dorm supervisors and security guards, to make the game more realistic. "We have too many memories from these four years at the college, and these scenes in the game revived our memories," said a student who visited the virtual college. "Over the past months, we have moved our classes, recruitment procedures and graduation events online. These are special measures taken in a special period. We want to bring a happy ending to students' college lives with those innovative ways," said Liang Liang, president of Hefei University of Technology.