Everyone says these will be the best years of your life and that they will fly by – and they are right. These are the years that shape destiny. The years to create and to discover, to imagine and fulfill, explore and fail and to try and never give up and they were made possible because Manchester allowed us to believe in ourselves; in every aspect. I that for me, who I was when I started four years ago is completely different than who I am now.
Four years ago, I remember standing outside Cordier, the smell of summer still lingering in the air, saying goodbye to my family and walking towards my SOL group. I knew that when I turned around, my parents would still be there, smiling and waving, totally embarrassing, but secretly what I needed. However, when I turned around, expecting their smiles and encouraging waves, they were gone. For the first time, I was on my own. And although crafting your own story is terrifying, that feeling is what paves the road to self-discovery.
Here at Manchester, I have learned that lessons live everywhere – you just have to pay attention. For instance, I was given the incredible opportunity to study abroad and travel throughout the U.S. to places such as Great Britain for history, China for Intercultural Theatre, Florida for sociology and study International Communities out East.
Manchester opened doors of chance – and because of that, I was given the opportunity to be a part of the Church of the Brethren’s Youth Peace Travel Team this past summer, where we traveled to different summer camps and helped promote peace. This possibility opened my eyes to so much. The ability to not only help people, but to teach as well – for people were now learning through my actions and my words.
Now, I have always been adamant not to follow in the “family business” (my entire family seemed to be teachers) but Manchester and the Youth Peace Travel Team showed me it is OK to follow in those footsteps, for I am now going off to teach English in South Korea this coming fall. Like teaching, something that was instilled in me but developed here, is one of the most influential aspects that Manchester established – the empowerment of strong female role models. That chapter began with my strongest role model – my mother. She was always, always, there for me as she listened, guided and let me become who I needed to. I have become the person I am today because I was blessed with her. And my only wish is to become half the woman she is. So: Thank you Mom.
But I know that Manchester fostered this aspect due to the English Department. Not only did they show me the magic that comes with literature, but also the greatness that comes from knowledge. By reading so many inspiring books, such as Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Women and Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad and The Handmaid’s Tale, the role models grew. Thank you for always being passionate about what was taught – for it makes learning so worthwhile. And now, I find it very fitting that my family was here to drop me off four years ago and are here again to accompany me home.
To the graduates of 2011, where we have been and where we are going – we learned our lessons from within and outside the classroom, from fiction and from the fact that we have only just begun. So, like the poet Rainer Maria Rilke said, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign tongue. Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now.”
Live everything. THANK YOU!