Stories including Jackie Onassis

From Nigeria to New York

I came to Vassar in the fall of 1960, having won one of 24 scholarships which had been offered to Nigeria and the Trust Territory of Cameroons from a group of Ivy League universities and colleges. I had no prior knowledge of Vassar, and the college was chosen for me by the organizers of the scholarship. What a fortuitous choice!

I made the Dean’s List during my freshman year and, in recognition of previous academic work in Nigeria, I skipped sophomore year. Within a span of just three years Vassar changed my life. From a diffident new arrival from Nigeria, I left Vassar a poised, confident, young woman ready to take on the world.

So many wonderful things happened to me at and through Vassar that I felt set me apart as a special person. A liberal arts education broadened my horizon and presented me with new, more meaningful vistas of the world. I joined other foreign students as guests of the Vassar Club of Washington D.C. and visited the White House of Jacqueline Kennedy, herself a Vassar girl. I was guest of the Vassar Club of New York and treated to memorable outings at the opera. Thanks to Vassar, which values ‘learning beyond the classroom,’ I spent an unforgettable late morning and afternoon with one of the greatest women of the 20th Century, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, at her Hyde Park home, Vassar’s neighbor in Dutchess County.

I remember my Vassar years with joy and appreciation for what I have become today. To quote from our graduating song: “Hats off to ’63! …Vassar thou art all One could ask!”

Open Mind

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.

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