Graduversary

Today is my graduversary, or millennial speak for my graduation anniversary. Exactly one year ago today, I woke up  to the traditional sound of bagpipes.* Exactly one year ago today, I proudly marched with my roommates and many of my good friends into Harvard Yard. Exactly one year ago today, I was surrounded by the sound of cheers, words of encouragement, and a glorious cacophony of sound–the product of many sleep deprived graduates, multiple bagpipers, and a jazz band. Exactly one year ago today, I was finally able to walk across a stage and proudly hold my bachelor’s diploma–something that I had worked hard to achieve for four years. It’s all so hard to believe.

Even now it’s still hard for me to process. I’ve commenced. I’ve begun a new journey. I’ve survived as a “real” person for a year. I haven’t even burned down my kitchen! And while I have enjoyed embracing the future, I’d like to take a moment, on this arbitrary yet special day, to reminisce a bit about the past.

The funny thing about my commencement was that nothing turned out the way I expected it to. It rained profusely in the days leading up to commencement. In fact, it was so cold that I had to open a few of my bulging suitcases to dig out some of my winter clothing. I even got a sinus infection, and, to top it all off, later found out that I was allergic to the antibiotics that I had been given.

And yet there were many ways in which my graduation was perfect. I had a wonderful time with my family–the people who supported me and made it possible for me to even dream of going to Harvard. I was able to show them part of my world, the world that they had helped given me access to, to show them the places and people that I had discovered, the people and things that I loved. At the same time, I was able to draw my friends close. To celebrate with them. To remember the last four years, and to feel like I was and am a part of an incredible community. And while I felt a bit sad at the time, to be leaving behind so many great people and things, I found it helpful to remember that it was a beginning. That commencement at its core means to start something new.

And start something new I have! I embarked on a new chapter of life in a totally new country. I’ve learned a lot about myself and gained a morsel or two of insight as to what I want in my future, but, most importantly, I’ve been able to keep in touch with most of my closest friends. So although I still feel a pang of envy for this year’s graduating class, I’m proud to say that I’m very happy with the new chapter that I’ve written since commencement. Congratulations to the class of 2015, and may you all be as happy with your new beginnings as I am with mine.

*Why this is a Harvard commencement tradition is still a mystery to me.

2014-05-29 06.18.11  2014-05-29 07.22.36  2014-05-29 09.45.07

Referendum Continued

Today is the day that Scotland votes on independence! In a wonderful twist of fate, I was able to pay a second visit to the Byåsen class studying the British Empire (and will hopefully continue to do so for the rest of the semester). Most of the class was pretty split on whether or not Scotland should be independent, but when put to a vote 60% voted no to independence. When I talked to the students who voted no, most of them voted that way because they were worried about Scotland’s oil reserves running out and the Scottish economy tanking. Many of them also felt as though the “Yes Scotland” campaign had simply seized onto the idea of becoming rich through Scottish oil reserves and done a poor job of focusing on nationalistic reasons for becoming independent. As for those who voted yes, those students sympathized with the Scottish desire to be independent and compared it to Norway’s independence from Sweden in 1905. The class seemed to have a really good time discussing the issue, although they strongly objected to the teacher, Maria, putting on bagpipe music in the background. They seemed to mind the bagpipes a bit less when we watch John Oliver’s take on Scotland’s independence:

My students also seemed to enjoy looking at Alan Bissett’s scathing poem “Vote Britain.” Many of the students felt that Bissett’s critique was effective; however, when I asked if it would have swayed their vote, many of them said no. I was personally struck by the line “Vote for Glasgow having the highest knife-crime rate and lowest life expectancy in Europe” and his use of Rupert Brooke’s World War I poem, quoting “There is some corner of a foreign field that is forever England.” While I’m personally on the side of the “Better Together” campaign (even though as John Oliver points out it’s a terrible name), I do think that Bissett points out some very valid grievances in his poem. Well, I suppose we’ll see what happens tomorrow morning!