Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, while on a video call with their teachers, was not the graduation ceremony these UAE pupils had dreamt of.
However, walking down the stage in their graduation gowns was out of the question as school campuses across the country remain closed with the stay-at-home order in effect.
It was the last day of class for pupils at the British School Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
Ideally, the big day should have been celebrated together with family and friends as the graduates are ready to move onto the next chapter of their lives.
But the Covid-19 pandemic completely changed a meaningful milestone like graduation.
These pupils didn’t get the chance to say proper goodbyes after being in school for the past 13 or 14 years.
Their final day on campus was a video conference on Zoom but they kept their spirit high as they celebrated their big day.
British pupil Nancy Donaldson, 18, said they also received a 30-minute-long pre-recorded video, in which teachers shared their heartfelt messages.
“I definitely did not expect that it would be like this,” she said.
“It was difficult not having a one-to-one with the teachers at the school.
“It’s a lot worse here than it was in the UK. The difference is that we are all going to different countries as we’re all international students. Some of these people I genuinely will never see in my life again.”
She said her school has a tradition of seniors walking down the stairs, shaking their teachers’ hands with their parents.
Instead, they bid farewell during a final online class.
Amira Al Hendi, a 17-year-old Emirati pupil, said it all felt very “unofficial” as she had hoped to see her classmates and teachers one more time.
“Graduation is something every kid looks forward to because you see the older ones graduate and you see the traditions of the school, so you expect to be part of that one day as well,” she said.
“It’s a moment we look forward to and we didn’t get that, whether it’s the graduation ceremony, prom or doing exams on campus.”
Alex Darling, a 17-year-old Australian pupil, has been attending this school for six years and said he hoped to see his school friends once the restrictions are over.
He wore shorts and t-shirt to his final day of virtual classes and the unofficial graduation ceremony.
“I never expected I’d be saying bye to them like this. I always had the view that it would be like any other year and I would get a proper farewell from my teachers and friends, but it hasn’t turned out the way we all thought it would,” he said.
“It feels very unofficial but the teachers have tried their best to give the same feeling we would’ve had if we were in school. It still feels incomplete.”
Meanwhile, in Dubai, a parent made a grand gesture for pupils graduating at the Jumeira Baccalaureate School by paying Emaar to light up the Burj Khalifa with a congratulatory message.
On Wednesday, the Burj Khalifa displayed: ‘JBS Class of 2020, Congratulations!’.
The message was sponsored by a parent of a pupil in grade 12 at the school who wished to surprise her daughter and her classmates.
"I am a proud parent at Jumeira Baccalaureate School. I know all the children in the graduating class and wanted to uplift their spirits. 2020 has been an odd and difficult year for our children and I wanted to spread some good cheer," said the mother, who did not wish to be named.
The mum said she wanted to do something special to mark the big day for her daughter and her class.
"I have known most of the pupils since they were children. I have watched them grow up and I felt sad that they were going to miss their graduation, which is such an important milestone. I wanted to surprise them and wanted to do something special to remember the Class of 2020," she said.
"We came together as a community, and celebrated this special occasion virtually."
Richard Drew, principal at Jumeira Baccalaureate School said that class of 2020 will certainly be celebrated in history.
“Following our grade 12 leaver's assembly celebrating the pupils' achievements, one of our parents made the remarkable gesture of lighting up the Burj Khalifa,” he said.