Pandemic leaves an international student with ‘no idea’ of what comes next

Cecilia Pick, senior in elementary education and English, is an international student from Paraguay. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pick says she's pushed back her graduation plans and is uncertain when she'll be able to go home. (Photo courtesy of Cecilia Pick)

Three years ago when Cecilia Pick, senior in elementary education and English, first came to Kansas State from Paraguay, she planned to walk across the stage at commencement with every other senior, but that plan is becoming a little uncertain.

Following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines limiting the size of public gatherings, the university announced it would be canceling all commencement ceremonies as it shifted to limited campus operations for the rest of the spring semester.

K-State students have voiced outrage at the decision. Some have circulated petitions to have a delayed commencement, but the university maintains its decision.

“The university is reviewing alternate methods to celebrate the academic achievements of our students and will release details later,” the university says on its COVID-19 update page.

Like many seniors, Pick said she was upset when she heard the news, but she wasn’t surprised.

“At that point I was pretty much expecting it considering the current world situation,” Pick said.

Her mother was planning to attend commencement in May to watch Pick cross the stage in Bramlage Coliseum.

“We were really excited about that,” Pick said. “This would’ve been her first time in Kansas.”

Pick, however, said she’s lucky — in May, she was only going to graduate from one of her degrees and planned to finish the other over the summer online. Now, she’s pushed her plans back and will be graduating from both programs in December.

“I am really sad though for those who only had May as an option,” Pick said. “Especially international students who will probably not have the chance to come back if there is another ceremony or celebration later this year.”

Pick said her online class and student teaching requirements will keep her off campus next semester, so she is afraid she’s missed out on something really important to her.

“The saddest memory I’m missing is being able to say goodbye to classmates and classes as a whole,” Pick said. “I never imagined that my last class before spring break would be my last undergraduate class. I have developed so many friendships and close relationships with classmates, faculty and administrators that I am sad to miss the opportunity to say goodbye.”

In the meantime, Pick said she wants to return to Paraguay to finish out the rest of the semester. But canceled flights and documentation for her pet cat have slowed the process.

“It has been hard to build concrete plans,” she said. “I have no idea, honestly.”

My name is Kaylie McLaughlin and I'm the managing editor and audience engagement manager of the Collegian. Previously, I've been the editor-in-chief and the news editor. In the past, I have also contributed to the Royal Purple Yearbook and KKSU-TV. Off-campus, you can find my bylines in the Wichita Eagle, the Shawnee Mission Post and KSNT News. I grew up just outside of Kansas City in Shawnee, Kansas. I’m a senior in digital journalism with a minor in French and a secondary focus in international and area studies. As a third-generation K-Stater, I bleed purple and my goal is to serve the Wildcat community with accurate coverage.