Dooley always scared me. It wasn’t her skeletal aura or immortal mystery. It was her not-so-gentle reminder that time here was finite: Students will go. And May 8, the class of 2017 will, in fact, go. After gown-clad embraces with old friends, faculty mentors and family members on the very quad that made us fall for the University four long years ago, we will go. Off into different geographies, sectors and futures. But like Dooley, the Emory each and every one of us has crafted and experienced will live on forever.
May 9 will be strange. We won’t rise and race to discussions led by our favorite professors. The faces of friendship won’t be there to greet us during our daily crossings. Our EmoryCards will no longer swipe us into our residence halls, the Clairmont pool or dining establishments to purchase stale sushi. But Emory is far from extinguished. These friends will be at our weddings and children’s birthday celebrations. The late-night talks in dorm rooms, the dinners we cooked together and the shared search for the best restaurant in Atlanta will live in our heads as deeper understandings of love and friendship. The debates we had in classes and the arguments that sprung up at club meetings will live on in the strengthened sense of empathy in our eyes. Favorite faculty members will continue expanding our minds with the books we place on our bedside tables and will always be a phone call or email away.
Above all, Emory will continue on in the improved versions of ourselves that will leave these gates May 8. Four years ago, I arrived here timid and unsure of what to study and, frankly, unsure of myself. But faced with boundless opportunities, I was forced to abolish my passive tendencies. I shed fears of newness and breaking routines and began to experiment. I delved into nearly 15 different disciplines over these four years; spent two semesters abroad in two continents I had never stepped foot in; learned a third language; gave to and grew with athletic and arts groups on campus; interned at the core of the golf industry; completed fellowships and research in social science, humanities and liberal arts; and discovered poetry writing and literary translation. I must admit, with the social and academic harvest came intense pressure and often isolation, but it was here that I learned to see positively and view these challenges as privileges.
I spent nearly my entire life in a one-streetlight town in New Jersey where any of these opportunities to explore disciplines and brush shoulders with world-renowned poets, academics, researchers, students and friends would have been unfathomable. It has been an extreme privilege to spend my 18th through 22nd years in this community. And I see it as an even greater privilege to make the transition from being a part of Emory to have Emory become a part of us: to live out the futures that the University has prepared us for and propelled us toward.
Jason Ehrenzeller is a Spanish and international studies major from Harrington Park, N.J.