Fernando Martinez: Indefinitely postponing OSU commencement, while important, hits first-generation students’ families hard

This Q&A is the fourteenth in a 19-part series, “19 COVID-19 Stories,” diving into the unique perspectives of the Corvallis community as they face COVID-19 and all its social and economic effects. 

Fernando Martinez is a fifth-year biology student on track to graduate at the end of spring term. He said as a first-gen student, his parents have been looking forward to seeing him graduating, but their plans changed since the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the ceremony. He said he understands why the ceremony was cancelled, but he feels for everyone that has to miss their ceremony.


How did you feel when you learned that the spring graduation ceremony was going to be canceled due to COVID-19?

I was/am on track to graduate after this term. I’ll be completely done with my degree at that point, and I intended to walk during the ceremony. I was bummed, to say the least, when I realized that commencement would likely be postponed or cancelled. Being a first-gen college student, attending my college graduation is something that my parents have been looking forward to for a very long time. We’ve all poured a lot of time and energy into our degrees, so I feel for everyone who has to miss out on that chance because of the pandemic.


What was the most difficult thing for you when you learned COVID-19 was going to delay spring graduation?

I myself was not too upset about it, I understand why commencement had to be postponed, and I do think it was the right call. Like I said though, I feel for everyone else who was looking forward to it, whether it’s fellow students or my parents or the parents and family members of students. We’re all weathering the same storm, so to speak, and it’s not fun, everything just kinda sucks right now.


Did you change your plans of graduating this spring? When are you graduating now, and what is your plan for graduation?

None of my plans have changed luckily. Spring term was set to be a fairly bare-bones term that I could just cruise through until the end. I managed to get into the classes I needed, and I’m still set to graduate at the end of the term.


How has been your experience coping with the spring term changes as a first-generation student? How do your parents feel about your graduation being delayed/changing? 

Coping isn’t being too difficult for me fortunately. I grew up in California about 30 minutes south of San Francisco, and I packed up some essentials and drove to California to stay with my parents during all of this. I’m an only child, they’re my only family. Getting to spend time at home with them has been a huge help with processing everything that’s going on, silver linings, I suppose. I think my parents are more upset than they are making apparent, just based on what I know about them and their mannerisms around the subject, but we’re hanging in there.


Are you experiencing any financial struggles due to COVID-19? If so, how are you dealing with them? What do you wish people understood about your situation?

I’m fortunate enough that finances are not an issue right now. My strategy with school has been one of “work to save up, take some classes, work to save up, take some classes” and rinse and repeat. If anything I’m doing slightly better right now because of a general lack of eating out or going out to do things with friends, fancy that.


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