Hundreds of students from Charles Sturt University's Science faculty celebrated their graduation on Tuesday, a milestone that many didn't think would actually happen due to the pandemic.
"We were worried it wasn't going to happen, because our initial graduation last year got postponed," Agricultural Science graduate Katie Thomas said.
"You work so hard for four years to achieve your final moment as a student into an alumni."
Despite these fears, the class of 2020 were finally able to don their caps and gowns and graduate this week. Two ceremonies were held on Tuesday at Joyes Hall at CSU, with further celebrations planned throughout the week.
Students would usually be handed their testamur on stage during the ceremony, but because these were already mailed to students last year, they were given commemorative tokens instead.
Caitlin Albert completed her Bachelor of Agriculture last year and described the graduation as "a bit of a relief really."
"Even though we already got our certificates, it's a bit of closure today," she said.
Physiotherapy graduate Rachel van der Veen shared this sentiment, saying that Tuesday was "the icing on the cake" of her university experience.
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In many ways, the graduation ceremonies acted as a reunion, with students moving across the country for work after finishing their degrees and then returning to Wagga for the occasion.
Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Professor Megan Smith, said that what she loved most about the day was watching students reunite with one another, as well as families being able to get together and celebrate the achievements of their loved ones.
"Often what [students] do is they finish their studies, they graduate at the end, but this group is slightly different," she said.
"They've gone away, they've had some experiences and they've come back, and that's the nice bit - you see the reunions and the joining back together.
"You realise that students form a real bond and real cohort together during their time at uni, and that will last a lifetime."
Taylor Wolf and Lairam Rahtin both completed their Bachelor of Oral Health (Therapy and Hygiene), and it was only at the graduation ceremony they discovered they had both moved to Brisbane for work.
"We love Wagga; we want to work here, but we also want to explore interstate," Mr Rahtin said.
"You never know, maybe after a couple of years we'll come back and work over here."
The Science students were able to complete their degrees despite the challenges of COVID-19. The pandemic hit during their final year of study, which is usually reserved for placements and the more practical side of study.
"I went to Canberra for about one month, and [my placement] got cancelled, so I had to come back here in June," Oral Health graduate Samantha Azzi said.
"A lot of missed time, but it's okay, we all made it in the end."
This week's graduation ceremonies are the first to be held at Charles Sturt University since the pandemic began.
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