"Reflections on Graduation"

Reflections on Graduation

Leighnah Perkins ’17 shares her thoughts as she prepares to leave Ursinus.

For weeks all I could think about was graduation. Once we hit the “100 days until” mark through boring classes or long reading assignments I would whisper the word to myself like it was a secret. I remained motivated thinking of the day when I received the piece of paper that I had been waiting for, working towards, and thinking about for years. And then it was here and before I could blink it was over.

Amongst congratulations people keep asking me how I feel to be done. I know they’re expecting fear, anxiety, some form of doubt on top of a hefty dose of relief. These are all completely normal and while I feel those things (they come and go), I’m mainly overwhelmed by a sense of opportunity. Where some see uncertainty, I see chances to grow. Where some see places to shrink in fear, I want to rise to the occasion.

See, I have no set plan now. I am going to go to graduate school in a few years, but not right now. I have not accepted any jobs. If I’m being honest, I don’t know what I’m doing aside from currently melting in a coffee shop in my hometown as quickly as my iced tea is in this May heatwave.

I came into Ursinus the same way. While I had some loose idea as to what I might want to spend the next (what I thought would be) four years doing, I wasn’t interested in narrowing it down. While some might think “going in blind” so to say can be detrimental this wasn’t the case.

My embracing the unknown led me to so many beautiful opportunities at Ursinus. I had the Common Intellectual Experience as well as Gender and Ethnicity Communication with Dr. Goodman who I really enjoyed having. My love for Dr. Goodman’s teaching combined with how much I enjoyed my Media and Communication Studies classes led me to declare a major in the program. This was not planned and lead to me having an internship in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, working as an editor on The Grizzly, and being a member of the Student Agency within the Communications department at Ursinus.

My classes with Dr. Goodman were so enjoyable and going to her office hours to further discuss class topics or talk about my CIE papers lead to another opportunity. To my surprise, she offered me the chance to complete research with her as part of the Summer Fellows program. Going into college I had no clue that I would ever do any research as I didn’t think I was able to complete long and in depth projects. I spent my second semester of my senior year wrapping up my second research project under Dr. Goodman’s mentorship and am hopefully attending a conference in the fall to share my work.

Through these examples, I’m trying to say that the liberal arts approach at Ursinus is more than just something to have written on a website or just a way to pick classes. The liberal arts approach has allowed me to explore, to learn, to enrich myself. I could be a researcher, a freelance writer, and a social media strategist in one semester. There were no conceivable limits to what I wanted to do other than whether the registrar would let me overload on credits again or if my advisor would call me crazy (thanks for never doing that Dr. Goodman!) At Ursinus, most of us truly are a little bit of well, everything beyond just a major. I spent three years embracing each opportunity that came my way and learning as I went. These experiences have not only bolstered my resume or my coursework but also my life in general.

With pages and pages of job positions available for me to scroll through I feel inspired. Although the search might be cumbersome and frustrating at times, I feel armed with all that I learned at Ursinus through the vastly different opportunities I took. Embracing the sense of mystery that comes with trying something new, moving somewhere else, or attending a liberal arts college and graduating a year early has proven to make me stronger, smarter, and more prepared for the next step. As I spend hours looking at Indeed.com and trying to write the perfect cover letter, I’m comforted by the fact that I’m ready for what’s ahead. Not only am I ready, I’m arms open excited to see what’s next.