It has been an exciting week of graduations at UPEI for both the class of 2021 and the class of 2020, with students who have put in years of hard work and tens of thousands of dollars to earn their diplomas.
For Shawn Arsenault, getting to graduation day was a 26-year journey.
"It's been a journey. And I know a lot of people say yes, their education was a journey," he said. "For me, this has been a 26-year journey that I didn't even know I was on."
Arsenault has been working at UPEI since 2007, and Wednesday he graduated with his bachelor of integrated studies with a concentration in computer science. The integrated studies program combines past education and work experience and counts them toward the degree.
Arsenault had been a music student at UPEI starting in 1997, and then took information technology at Holland College before joining the workforce. But he was just a few credits shy of a degree.
"It was just a matter of ... filling in a few more credits to get this degree," said Arsenault, who has worked for 14 years at UPEI as a "web guy."
Arsenault picked away at those credits, one or two courses per semester, including summer sessions.
"This year I realized I was finally down to two, and then one, and this past January I took the last course," he said. "The finish line was right in front of me. Almost unbelievable how fast it came up."
'Let's move forward'
Graduation ceremonies were not held at UPEI last year due to the pandemic, so this year, the university offered some online and some in-person ceremonies to celebrate the graduates of the last two years, holding several throughout the week.
Arsenault graduated Wednesday at a small in-person ceremony. And although he said it was "quite different" from what it normally is, that didn't take away from the experience of finally having that degree in his hand.
He walked on to campus and into a tent where a COVID rapid test was done and officials passed him his diploma. Then he walked to the student building where he had his photo taken on stage with the dean of arts.
"To me, it's not about the graduation, it's about that journey, that 26-year journey," he said. "It wasn't a sadness, it was, I have completed something that I had been working on for so long. And let's move forward and see what's next in that journey.
"It was surreal, and it didn't feel like it was real until it was handed to me," he said. "Then I looked at it, saw my name ... then it felt real."
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