University students graduate in dazzling drive-through ceremony

Not quite the final day they all dreamed of, but Ajman University students say they had a blast

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Drive-throughs were once the preserve of burger joints and movies. Now they are more the preserve of PCR tests and vaccine shots.

But faced with the prospect of graduating on Zoom, Ajman University's class of 2021 opted for a dazzling vehicular ceremony in which 1,530 students saw each other off in style.

Students donned their gowns and hats and families piled into cars where they waited for their name to be called and degrees awarded.

Horns blared and graduates posed hanging out of sunroofs and car windows on a day to remember.

We had been waiting for this day for four years and this was amazing

“Receiving the graduation certificate on campus is not just a symbolic gesture but an intrinsic part of the student experience at the university," said Dr Karim Seghir, chancellor at Ajman University.

“Ajman University wanted to ensure that students enjoy this experience even while respecting social distancing norms required to stay safe during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We envisioned this ceremony to facilitate that, and are thankful to all the faculty, staff and students for adhering to the norms and ensuring the success of this event.”

After receiving a negative DPI test result in the past 72 hours, students were given a sticker they were required to adhere to the windshield of their cars.

Families could join them in the car but were not allowed to exit the vehicle.

Ajman, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: Anam Rizvi. News. Students wait for their drive through graduation from Ajman University because of Covid-19. Wednesday, February 10th, 2021. Ajman. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Students waited at the drive through graduation at Ajman University. Chris Whiteoak / The National

As the proceedings began, students followed the signs to the Sheikh Zayed Centre where the ceremony was held.

When their turn arrived, students got out of their cars, walked on the red carpet and collected their degrees.

Dvija Pandya, 23, an Indian student, said she had dressed in a traditional sari to collect her bachelors in pharmacy degree.

"This experience, a drive-through graduation, was a unique one I can tell people about," Ms Pandya said.

"I don’t think anyone in the UAE has seen a ceremony like this."

Ms Pandya said she and her family waited their turn in a giant parking lot. When her serial number arrived she stepped out to get her degree and her quintessential photograph with the chancellor.

"I studied for four years and this university graduation was a one-of-a-kind experience," Ms Pandya said.

"So many people had to graduate on Zoom, but we were able to dress up and celebrate."

Mohammad Afsal, 22, an Indian student, said he had thought of graduation day on many occasions through his four years of study, but never imagined he would be handed the degree in a drive-through celebration.

Mr Afsal was awarded a bachelor of science in accounting this week.

"Most major universities chose online graduations, but online events are not memorable. We had been waiting for this day for four years and this was an amazing initiative," Mr Afsal said.

He said a stage and radio station had been set up, and students could hear the chancellor's speeches and felicitations.

Mr Afsal said he was excited because his parents and cousins joined him in the car to collect the degree.

"Usually we only get two passes for parents, but this time we could take our entire family," he said.