Reading the email from the Fourth Year Trustees in my apartment about picking up my cap and gown last week felt surreal. I’ve looked forward to graduating the past four years, so how did it sneak up on me? All of a sudden I’m receiving emails from different organizations about picking up graduation cords and from various photographers who are opening their books for graduation photo sessions.
As I tried on my cap and gown, the reality that I’m graduating hit me for the first time. I haven’t been consciously thinking about the actual act of graduating — the ceremonies, the photos and the cap and gown. Looking in the mirror, I saw an image of myself I’d always dreamed of. Right after I picked up my cap and gown, I started scheduling graduation photos with my friends and looking for a dress to wear in May.
Growing up, my parents’ main goal for me was to graduate college — and one of my goals has always been to make my parents proud. They instilled the value of getting an education in me at a very young age. Graduation has evolved into something much larger for me now. When I first arrived at the University, I thought college meant that I was simply going to earn a degree. Now, after the past four years, I've learned that I’m not only graduating, but I’m graduating from a university I’ve grown to love alongside some amazing people, and excited to maintain the friendships I’ve made for years to come.
The reality is much more bittersweet. Graduation marks the end of my college career but also means that I’m leaving the people and place I’ve called home for the past four years. I couldn’t have expected to form such deep and fulfilling attachments to my closest friends, and I can’t help but reminisce on all the fond memories I’ve made during college. I’ve appreciated going to basketball games, sitting on the Lawn when it’s warm and the countless movie nights in my apartment — the University grew to be my home.
Sometimes I want this semester to go by quickly because I’ve been feeling burnt out from schoolwork, but at the same time, I don’t want to rush my last few months of college. After spring break, I know the end of the semester will feel like it’s rapidly approaching. I want to savor every moment I have left at the University, while still trying to balance my school and work life. I try to spend as much time with my friends as possible, even if it’s just sitting in the same room doing homework together.
I want to live in the moment, but I also can’t help but think that I should prepare to say goodbye to my friends after we all graduate and go our separate ways. I almost want to start saying goodbye now, so it won’t feel as hard to say goodbye later, but I know it’s inevitable. Goodbyes like these are always painful. We might find that we will live and work near each other, but right now I have to assume that won’t be the case.
I know a lot of students are applying to jobs right now and are in the process of interviewing, including myself. I can’t know exactly what my life will look like in four months. I’ll have a degree I’m very proud of, but beyond that, the future is very uncertain. I won’t know where I will be living or what I will be doing after graduation, which is concerning in some ways, but also freeing in others. College is often treated as a transition period into adulthood. After college, you’re expected to enter the workforce and know exactly what you should do with the rest of your life.
Right now, I’m grateful for how much I’ve grown in college — I feel comfortable entering a new phase of adulthood. Like many other students, it will be the first time I won't be in school. Graduation does mark the end of an era, but allows you the freedom to choose where you can go next and to use the tools that your college experience gave you. There is still time for all of us to decide how we want our lives to look after graduation. Although I don’t know what my future holds, I can always look back fondly at my time at the University — I know I will be able to carry these memories and look at my time at here with gratitude for the people I met.