Strengthened by obstacles overcome, defined by successes in the most challenging of years, Northeastern students and graduate students celebrated 2021 Commencement in a year unlike any other in ceremonies unlike any other.
Seated in chairs spread across the outfield of Boston’s historic Fenway Park in coronavirus-mandated distanced rows, waving to parents and friends in the grandstand, and from a stage facing the Northeastern logo-bedecked home plate, they told stories of resilience and growth.
“Think about everything you’ve accomplished, and how that’s shaped who you are today,” Nathan Hostert, who received a bachelor’s degree in political science, said at the undergraduate Commencement ceremony Saturday morning.
Neha Jain, who earned her degree in business administration in December 2020, told her classmates that she had traveled to Northeastern from a small town near Delhi because the United States was, she said, “the land of infinite opportunities and a place where I can be whoever I want to be.”
“The first few days of freshmen year were full of self-doubt and anxiety, where I constantly questioned myself if I will ever make it, where the thought of being on co-op gave me chills as I did not even have a resume or any experience in terms of working,” said Jain, “I didn’t know how will I ever fit in with people from cultures I have never even heard of—and how will I ever survive the crazy snow days that everyone kept warning me of.
“But here I am,” said Jain, who completed two “amazing” co-ops, studied abroad in Copenhagen, worked multiple different on-campus jobs and mentored multiple students at Northeastern.
Since January, Jain has been working in Dubai as a client services associate for AlphaSights, an information services company. She had made the long journey back to Boston to participate in this Commencement ceremony, which could not be taken for granted, not after the isolating year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I knew so little of the world when I initially joined Northeastern,” Jain said. “I learned how to love, how to feel joy, how to set goals, and how to foster a sense of community, all here at Northeastern.”
Travel restrictions over the last year meant that many international students in Boston weren’t able to return home, a theme discussed by Gaghan Dep Prabhu, who received a master’s in engineering, during Sunday morning’s ceremony.
Prabhu described arriving at the Boston campus for the first time after a 20-hour flight from Dubai with a mixture of anticipation and anxiety.
“Being an international student in a different country with diverse cultures, unknown faces and unfamiliar surroundings, worry starts to hit you in the face,” he said.
But completing his degree during the pandemic while so far from home taught him a valuable lesson.
“I believe home is a state of mind where you are at peace,” said Prabhu. “I found home here at Northeastern, and I believe many of us did, but as we propel ourselves into the wildness out there we call life, I have just one piece of advice. Seek your home, and if you have found it, stay connected with it.”
In his speech at the afternoon ceremony, Muhammad Fitrah Pratama Teng touched on themes of diversity, acceptance and resilience in his speech following a year in which diversity and racial equality emerged as a crucial issue.
“My name is Muhammad, and before I traveled to the US for the first time, some friends warned me about islamophobia, especially for people with the name Muhammad. I was so afraid at that time,” said Teng, who received a master’s degree in engineering and is looking forward to working on sustainable…