Rosemarie Garland-4297March 13, 1950: Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto married my grandmother, Sadae, a Hiroshima survivor, and my grandfather, Leon, an American soldier. A controversial union in the aftermath of a brutal war, my grandparents raised a family. This is how I came to be.

March 20, 2013: I flew to Emory from Los Angeles to visit the campus for the first time. On my flight, I noticed someone who also seemed like a prospective student. We both had a feeling we were flying for the same reason, but neither of us initiated conversation.

Time passes.

In 2015, I discovered that the reverend who married my grandparents was an Emory Candler School of Theology alumnus (40T, 86PH). And by 2016, that young man from the airplane, Jason Friedman (17C), also ended up attending Emory and had become my roommate and one of my best friends. The common thread between my family’s history and my own personal future: Emory University.

This dancer from California was certainly an unlikely candidate to attend school in Atlanta, but perhaps, all along, this university was written into my path.

While that may seem like a mystical claim, Emory undoubtedly gave me unique experiences and relationships that have allowed me to discover who I am and what I believe.  

The opportunity to spend summers and devote coursework to learning about social justice and the diverse backdrop of Atlanta illuminated my life’s purpose: to play a humble role in serving society. The ability to study dance forced me to embrace discipline, creativity and vulnerability. The four months I studied abroad in Germany fostered self-reliance, cultural understanding and joy. The gift of witnessing true community, in every circle of Emory life and beyond, revealed to me the power and potential of human connection.

Friendships with undocumented students showed me the meaning of courage, perseverance and humility. Relationships with professors who not only mastered and taught their courses’ content but also showed me the beauty and complexity of the mind and heart. And long-haul love shared with close friends supported, empowered and inspired me through all the trials and tribulations of my college experience.

Fate or coincidence, my journey led me to Emory, and my journey at Emory became a journey to understanding myself. These experiences and people, special and true to this university, yielded more than an undergraduate degree. In my final weeks as a student, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for this place that has shaped me.

Emory gave me the best sort of education; it instilled in me a way of life.

Julianna Joss is a political science and dance/movement studies major from Anaheim, Calif.