In the coming month, Arkansas Tech University’s class of 2016 will solidify their accomplishments by participating in the May graduation ceremonies.
This includes me.
We will walk down the aisle to adulthood, shake hands with Dr. Bowen, and take our diplomas with heads held high. For most, the ceremony will the last thing before many first things— the final hoorah before all of the other hoorahs. For some that day will be a last glance; for others, it might be a, “take care, I really liked you,” and for some, it could be a heart aching “so long.”
For me, attending Arkansas Tech has been too life changing to explain in hundreds of words, yet too sweet to express in words at all. Tech friends, faculty and classmates have influenced my future by teaching me to believe in a kind world, and instilling in me the truth that home can be created in many places.
Now I know that home is not limited by culture barriers. This belief began with a news reporting class that led me to a conversation in Baz-Tech with a Saudi Arabian student. As a fast friendship formed, home became midnight dinners and dance parties.
She gave me Arabic lessons and, in exchange, I taught her American slang words. She asked about my mom and worried about my sister when she was sick. She is back in Saudi Arabia now, and I’m not sure if I’ll see her again. But she changed me, and I was privileged to know and be known by her.
I will carry the hope that I found in apartment B107 in the Commons. It was a home where three of the most tenderhearted and kind women that I have known lived. That year we felt anger, jealousy, fear and discontentment, but the friendship bound up in that apartment was real enough to combat every emotion.
Today, I look back on a year full of grace, laughter, dirty dishes and four girls who made allowances for each other, believing that peace was more important than getting our way.
So for me, May 7 isn’t just the day that I receive a diploma. This day marks the end of something and beginning of something else. Although I’m reluctant to admit it, May 7 is the end of four years of vast change, just-like-family friendships, and life. Four real, sad-sometimes-but-happy -too, heartbreaking, healing, weird, interesting, refreshing, exhausting , monumental and incredible years of life. They’ve been my summer night, Fenway Park, grand-slam hit, favorite years.
I truly hope that graduation marks the beginning of years just as sweet. Different, I’m sure, but good nonetheless. The time that’s coming will offer new challenges and opportunities. I get to learn how to be a long-distance best friend, employee, and new friend, just as I was four years ago. And maybe four years from now I’ll look back and see a new city, job, and people that grew into something else altogether – home.