I remembered the first day that I moved to my dorm, I stay huddled in bed because I didn’t want to meet the students from my floor. I thought, “They’re probably all here to party, get drunk, and get wasted.” After pondering how to get out of the situation, I decided whatever. So I stuck my nose out of the door and peered down the hall. Suddenly, a head peeked out from the room next door and a short, Asian kid smiled at me and said, “Hi!” That was the first of many meetings that I would have over the course of welcome week. 

If I hadn’t stuck my head outside my door, I wouldn’t have met the amazing people that I know today. You see, going out of my comfort zone is one thing that college taught me. I became Outreach Coordinator for a student club, I started conversations with strangers, and I collaborated on projects with all kinds of people. These experiences shaped me to be the person I am today. It shaped me to be the person that I was when I sat among hundreds of fellow graduating students.

If you are wondering how graduation work, this is how:

  1. Depending on your school, you may have to apply for graduation. But, I was automatically enrolled to graduate. 
  2. Go to the graduation fair that your school hosts. At this fair, you will get discounted graduation goods such as a discounted gowns, diploma frames, stole, cups, and other unnecessary items that you don’t need. Just the basic cap and gown is fine. (I bought a bundle that includes my gown, tassel, and hat for only $25).
  3. Read your commencement emails from your school because it will include information about the time, date, and location of graduation, and how to reserve tickets for your family members.
  4. Optional: If you want to look nice before graduation, feel free to do whatever you need to do to look good and feel good.
  5. Check-in. On graduation day, go to your check-in location and chill. Before long, you will line up and make your way into the auditorium or stadium where graduation will happen. Sit down to hear people make inspirational speeches that you tone out halfway through. Finally…
  6. Graduate! Yes, it’s that simple.

My Friend’s Graduation

Just two weeks prior, I watched my friends from another college walked across the stage in their dazzling gown. I cheered across the stadium because I wanted them to know I was so proud of them for achieving a huge milestone in life.

My Graduation

At my graduation, Julie Schumacer delivered an inspiring speech infused with a mix of pop-quiz comedy. It worked because the audience laughed…uh I mean chuckled. I chuckled, too. The biggest take away I got from her speech was something along the line of “It’s okay if you failed at something. It’s okay if you got fired. It’s okay if you got declined to a job offer. Because all these things will push you toward the path that you are meant to take.” In other words, it’s a nice way of saying I will be fine. That it’s okay to fail. Because in doing so, I will figure out what I want to do.

At that time, I see life after graduation as a dark void. I didn’t know what I was going to do after graduation. Get a job? Do an internship? Go back to school? But her speech made me realize that life is like an experiment. I won’t know what I want until I have experienced all kinds of things and that includes failure. 

So there I sat, content with the realization that it’s okay to not know what I want to do because I will figure it out eventually.

After her comedic speech, staff helpers shuffled students around to line up by the side of the stage. To be honest, I wasn’t nervous or anything. When it was my turn to walk, I didn’t feel a sense of accomplishment or pride. I just felt…normal. Not to mention, the name readers were butchering everyone’s names so bad. Yikes. Names were read over one another and lost in the crowds of applause.

Some Last Thoughts

It was nice that my grandma came to see me graduate. It was nice that my parents and sisters came to see me. It felt great knowing that my family came to support me on this cold, windy day as I walked across the stage. What was even nicer, though, was when we ate food at a Thai restaurant later. A happy occasion calls for a happy meal. 

Graduation was an important occasion for me for sure. I still haven’t shaken the feeling that I’m still a student here. That I haven’t graduated, really. But in the next couple of weeks, I know the feeling that I’ve graduated will settle in. For now, I want to leave you with this: If you are graduating or know someone who is graduating, congratulations! You have officially passed one of the biggest hurdles in life. 

I would like to leave you with a few 100 messages about college such as the best way to sneak into the cafeteria for free food or how to be slick when entering a dorm that you don’t live in, but I won’t. And I won’t tell you to stop wasting money on books that you don’t need because I bet hundreds of other people have already told you so. But I will leave you with this:

College is an investment. Yes, it is expensive. Yes, I basically do the learning myself and sometimes wonder what my professor is there for–but the connections I made and the communication and writing skills I learned are invaluable. I met awesome professors, made great friends, and learn to approach people and start conversations. College is great because I found freedom and independence and learned a lot.