Nethmini Hapuarachchige’s degree has been hanging on her wall for two years.
But something is still missing.
The 24-year-old commerce graduate was one of hundreds of Memorial students whose convocation ceremonies were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It obviously happened really fast. I remember starting my last semester and thinking, this is the last time I’m going to be going to classes, walking through the UC, maybe grabbing a cup of coffee and all of those things,” she said. “And then everything just changed.”
Ms. Hapuarachchige was in her final semester of studies when Memorial switched to a remote learning environment in winter 2020.
“Submitting my last paper online was very emotional for me. I think I burst into tears immediately after because it’s like, that’s not how I pictured that happening,” she said.
“That big chapter of my life — university — just felt a little incomplete, which is why I’m really glad we’re having the postponed convocation.”
Ms. Hapuarachchige will finally be part of a convocation ceremony on Tuesday, June 21, at the Mary Brown’s Centre, where she’ll walk across the stage to receive a bachelor of commerce (co-operative) degree.
Since completing her program, she’s embarked on a career in marketing.
First at Seafair Capital where she completed two of her program’s mandatory work terms, and now as a digital account manager at Newfound Marketing.
“It’s helpful to have been a work-term student myself, because I’m able to understand what she’s feeling.”
Ms. Hapuarachchige says she’s always been drawn to the creative side of business, just as she’s always been interested in supporting her peers.
In her role at Newfound Marketing, she recently had the opportunity to supervise a work-term student from Memorial’s commerce program.
“It’s helpful to have been a work-term student myself, because I’m able to understand what she’s feeling. I think it’s great to have that switch.”
During Ms. Hapuarachchige’s time at Memorial, she was heavily involved in peer support through the International Student Resource Centre (ISC).
She was born in Sri Lanka and grew up in Tanzania. Her experience of coming to Canada for university made her passionate about helping fellow international students to adjust.
“University on its own is a big journey, and then being an international student, I felt there were some added challenges,” she said. “How do I fit in? How do I find my place? I felt like I had to start over and rewrite my story in some ways.”
Ms. Hapuarachchige spent two years with the ISC, first as vice-president of marketing and then as president.
She says her work there played a “huge” role in making her feel like she belonged somewhere, and that she was having an impact.
Ms. Hapuarachchige did other volunteer work during her degree: with the MUN Campus Lions Club, with Orientation Week, as an international students’ representative in residence, and on the Business Day Committee at the Faculty of Business Administration.
“I will always be thankful for my Memorial experience.”
She tried to tailor all of her school and volunteer experiences towards her desired field of marketing. She hopes to continue working in the field before doing a master of business administration (MBA) degree in the future.
“I will always be thankful for my Memorial experience. It truly was a key chapter of my life — I made lifelong friends, learned so much, and had incredible volunteer experiences and work opportunities that paved the path to where I am today.”