What We Learn Within…

by Brooke Widman, Class of 2010

Graduation. It seems strange to talk about that word now as I sit here, one week before I will be participating in what seems like a day I’ve prepared for my entire life. Through grade school and high school, we were instructed and encouraged to do well in our classes, be involved in community work and produce an all around persona that would eventually get us into a great college. As we approach graduation, I’m realizing more and more that it seems like, until this moment, everything has been in preparation for the completion of our college education and now, as we near the end, I find myself asking: Now what?

In order to not completely diminish our direction and enthusiasm for the future, the truth is that the lot of us have certainly approached our college educations as a medium through which we can move on to great careers, further research or education opportunities or simply a life guided by the knowledge and experience of a liberal arts education. Having experienced Vassar and all it has to offer, I leave here with the fabulous sensation of knowing that, while a comfortable and familiar place, Vassar has made me ready to go because of its effectiveness as an institution of learning and a place that prepares its students to do great things.

As I look back at my four years here, my first thoughts are about how much I’ve changed, how my professors, friends and mentors have altered the way I think about things and mostly how I think about myself. I remember entering the gates of Vassar in 2006 with expectations that seemed inflated and idealistic and I am leaving here having met all of them and exceeded most.

It’s hard to condense what it has been like to be a Vassar student into so many words as the experiences are numerous and the lessons often unexplainable. I can say this, however: Vassar has taught me how to think. I learned somewhere around the second semester of my sophomore year that I don’t have to believe every theory or article my professor presents to me or adhere to the opinion of the most aggressive student in class. Rather, I learned that these things were there as challenges to my own imagination and channels through which I had the luxury of deciding for myself what I was going to think about and take from each individual experience. I learned that not until you know what you’re confident about and have sufficient evidence or cause to believe in it should you begin to try and convince others of it. I learned that thinking, and thinking well, can get you anywhere.

As I approach my final days here, I think of the 34 credits I’ve earned across numerous disciplines ranging from women’s studies to economics and American Sign Language to Proto-Indo European linguistics and feel as if I’ve been filled by the knowledge of how to engage, how to explore and how to grow.

What comes next? Well, specifically, jobs, graduate school, time off, exploration and fellowships, etc, but in the more general sense, who really knows? On May 23, we will be setting out from the gates of Vassar and be have our knowledge and skills put to the test in making this world what we want it to be and in using our education to change realities and develop new ideas. So when all along we were preparing for college with an uncertainty as to what would come next, my feeling is that there was no way for anyone to inform us on or prepare us for that part. We’ve finally reached the point where we’re in control of the “what comes next,” and I truly believe we’ve all been sufficiently prepared to depart and find greatness.

My best wishes to the Class of 2010, and may we all contribute a little of what we’ve learned within these walls to the betterment of what awaits us outside of them.