by Shannon Wilton, Class of 2010
As of this writing, I have just turned in my second thesis. Normally students are happy to turn in their senior project; I am ecstatic. Now I can actually grasp the fact that my time at Vassar is ending. People always say that college graduation is a major point in your life. I think they are correct. I have learned so much during my time at Vassar and I will be sorry to leave.
I remember opening my acceptance letter to Vassar and thinking, “That’s where Jackie Onassis went!” I was thrilled to go to a school with a big name, beautiful landscape and amazing traditions. For some reason, I thought Vassar would be the finishing school that it used to be. Was I wrong…
My first few weeks at Vassar sped by. A few key moments stand out: the first time I saw a squirrel take a muffin up a tree, my first Nilda’s, the first sip of chocolate milk at the All Campus Dining Center, the first time I got lost in the basement of the library…As I realized I was finally away from home for good, I remember thinking “Why am I here? I don’t fit in. This is not what I signed up for.” Conservative me was terrified by the stark openness everyone exhibited. As I walked to class in makeup and heels, everywhere I turned I saw crazy outfits, Birkenstocks and sweatpants. Vassar was a long way from home. I was worried that I would lose myself in an effort to be politically correct and to fit in.
Looking back, I feel like I do fit in. Everyone seems to fit in. What I know now that I didn’t then is that it doesn’t matter how different you are. Vassar didn’t change, but I feel at home. I changed, and I changed for the better. Yes, I will always consider myself conservative on Vassar’s campus, but my mind is open to new possibilities. Vassar has taught me to appreciate the differences in new things, people and places. I am still my old self with the same morals, manners and confidence, but I am an improved version. Had I chosen to attend another school, I really do not know if I would be the same person that I am today.
College is supposed to be the most fun time of your life. After the days of cramming for exams, doing projects and reading countless books, I can leave Vassar knowing that I have also gained amazing friendships. Four years away from home would have been horrible without my friends. I only wish that they could all come with me after graduation. I can honestly say that I have learned as much from them as I have from my academic work. Leaving them will be just as difficult as leaving Vassar itself.
So as I accept my diploma, I will be happy that I made it through these past four years and came out a better person. I will be forever grateful for all of the help I received from faculty members and friends. I will be a Vassar College grad. Finally.
by Alyssa Alcasabas Pabalan, Class of 2010
Over the past four years, I have learned, experienced and felt so much that I don’t know where to start; I’m also not eloquent enough to put it all together in a beautifully written essay. So I thought I’d take your “goals for every student” from the catalogue-because I’m probably one of the few people that actually read the front part-and use it as an exit checklist. Here goes!
1. “Achievement of depth and range of knowledge in a single discipline or in a subject approached through several disciplines.”
Okay, I’ll agree with that. I came in with the intention of being a biology major, declared the first week of sophomore year and never looked back. Sure, I tried to see if there was anything else I felt as passionate about-astronomy, education, psychology, music, languages-but I just couldn’t find anything. Thank you for letting me pursue a well-rounded education; I can now go, “Ha!” at universities that have a dozen or so requirements for their students. My love for the Vassar curriculum is mainly due to the amazing faculty employed at the institution. Most, if not all, of my professors, have been so excited about their area of study and so eager to share not only their academic knowledge, but also their life experiences, with their students. Being at a small school allows these relationships and truly does motivate you within the classroom.
2. “Recognition of the different kinds of knowledge and their scope and relevance to one another…[such as] between people and their social and physical environment.”
Oh, Vassar. When I first drove through Main Gate that rainy Sunday, little did I know that the terms “heteronormative,” “awkward,” “gender-neutral” and “Nilda” would become integral parts of my vocabulary. Or that skinny jeans and flannel would become integrals parts of my wardrobe. (Well, not mine, but other people’s. You know who you are.) As for the physical environment, little did I know that finding people running/walking naked through the Library was acceptable, and even expected, twice a year. Or that where one lived on-campus carried an incredibly high degree of house pride (GO STRONG!) and house stigma, and that one contributed to it whether one was aware of it or not.
3. “Immediate experience of creative ideas, works of art and scientific discoveries.”
Definitely got my dose of all three, even if didn’t understand what was going on (which, as an extremely creatively challenged person, was most of the time when it came experiencing the first two). I’ll freely admit that I’ve sat through plays and stood in front of works of art, not really getting the artist’s “message,” but I came to appreciate the time, energy and love that went into it. Hey, I find beauty in a good recrystallization, so to each their own.
4. “Development of the powers of reason and imagination through the processes of analysis and synthesis.”
I’ve learned that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, and that I don’t have to agree! You know how in high school, it was “cool” to go with the majority (even if that meant thinking Edward Cullen was the hottest thing on the face of the planet)? Here, I could tell someone that I completely disagreed with something they said (and counter with something like, “I think Jacob Black is the hottest thing on the face of the planet”), back it up (“Edward sparkles like a girly-man; how is that hot?”), and continue in an intellectually stimulating debate (“Whatever, Bella doesn’t deserve either of them, she’s just an angsty whiner”) without fear of being labeled “uncool.” Being at a liberal school really does force you, for better or worse, to open up your mind to all possibilities pertaining to life, and I’ve come to appreciate how my mind has changed since freshman year.
So, Vassar, you’ve done good. I knew you wouldn’t let me down (just like my parents, who never cease to tell me how my four years better have been worth every penny, knew you wouldn’t). You’ve introduced me to some of the most amazing people I know and who I can’t imagine my life without, and opened up my mind in so many different ways that it would be hard to quantify. You’ve helped me grow into an independent and confident person, ready to take on the world. Well, not the real one-the medical school one. Real world, get ready. I shall take you on in about four years, up to my eyeballs in student loans and lost hours of sleep. Because if there’s anything Vassar has taught me, it is to never be afraid of taking on challenges, even if you have no idea how you’re going to do it.