Seniors Bid Adieu to ESU

Photo Courtesy of Brooke Donovan
Graduation leaves ESU seniors feeling bittersweet. Photo Courtesy of  Brooke Donovan
Graduation leaves ESU seniors feeling bittersweet.
Photo Courtesy of Brooke Donovan


SC Staff Writer

It’s a funny word that colleges use for graduation: commencement, a beginning.  Certainly, completing college is quite an accomplishment, one that some people will not achieve before their deaths.

Graduating seniors should be happy with their achievements.

But beneath the accomplishment and the happiness rests the uncertainty of the future, and not all graduates look forward to the end of their time in college.

As the semester winds down and finals week approaches, graduating seniors wait impatiently for the day they’ve been working towards for the last four years: commencement, or graduation.

Graduation brings to a close the years of grueling semesters, of long nights spent working on papers and cramming for exams or throwing together presentations just in time to pull off that passing grade.

Finally, graduates can take a deep breath, swell with pride, and heave a big sigh of relief as the magnitude of their accomplishment sinks in.

They’ve done it, and they’re happy.  College is over, and life in the real world begins.

Graduation marks the beginning of the next stage of life for many graduates.

It could mean the start of graduate or professional school, or starting a new job.

It could mark the culmination of a goal and beginning of a new dream.

Commencement seems to open to graduates the world in opportunities and optimism, and seniors simply cannot wait until they cross that finish line and carelessly throw their caps into the air at the end of the graduation ceremony.

However, some students don’t want to leave.

ESU is friendly, warm, and caring, the faculty passionate and concerned, but the real world is cold, unfeeling, and ruthless.  Working upward from entry level positions is a hard, arduous and often thankless task, and converting from a commitment of 18 hours a week in class time to spending 40 hours a week at a job that may or may not be agreeable is both stressful and challenging.

Hours away from home and leisure increase dramatically, and the welcomed flexibility of attendance policies vanishes as full-time work schedules clamp down hard on the suddenly too-short day.

Graduation brings to an end all of the advantages of being a college student.

Say farewell to student discounts at electronic retailers and lazy afternoon naps.  Bid adieu to winter and spring breaks and guaranteed days off for holidays and weekends.

Goodbye classrooms that offer endless opportunities to meet and befriend new people and fully equipped labs that allow students to work with specialized, expensive equipment otherwise unavailable to them.  So long internships and international study opportunities and deferred debt. Hello student loan payments!

Debt repayment is but the simplest of many harsh realities faced by recent graduates, who must confront a weak economy, dismal job market, unemployment and/or underemployment.  Attacks on higher education and a changing economic landscape have lowered the value of many college degrees, and the critical thinking skills acquired in college don’t always translate directly into job skills, giving employers incentive to hire more experienced or trained individuals in place of recent graduates.

The real world is scary. There are no compassionate and caring professors to compliment completed work and elevate self-esteem, or free support systems in place to fall upon when feeling overwhelmed, or withdrawals to use when schedules or class work become too difficult.

In the real world, people have to tough it out and deal with hardships. There are no more bi-annual changes in schedules that allow people to leave behind work that they hate in order to pursue other work that they like, and the days spent in deep intellectual discussions with peers, many of whom may now be friends, disappear once that diploma lands in hand.

But the realities of the real world form only half of the reason behind why many graduating seniors view commencement with trepidation.

The loss of community, of a sense of belonging and welcome, also disappears upon graduation.

No longer will students sit in the classroom of a beloved and passionate professor to revel in her enjoyment of medieval literature, sit contentedly through another professor’s impromptu percussion performance as he presents his philosophically enriched argument about the origins of Caribbean music and jazz, or marvel at the sophistication and dedication with which a department head balances both teaching and activism.

Important positions held in clubs and organizations must pass to new hands, and with it the pride of accomplishments had there, and the guidance and mentorship of a sea of experts slips away— leaving graduates to face the world and its looming, unanswered questions alone.

In a world of uncertainties and challenges, ESU offers a safe-haven, a place to remove oneself from the cold indifference of the world and connect to humanity as one seeks the knowledge and experience necessary to personal growth.

While graduation gives many reason to celebrate as students view graduation with prideful anticipation, at least a few will mourn, as commencement marks the loss of ESU.

For those students, graduation will be a bittersweet ending rather than a commencement, and they will walk at graduation with at least a little sadness as they leave ESU’s welcome embrace and enter the cold world.

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