Tuesday, May 26, 2015

An Open Letter to the Class of 2019

To the SMCVT Class of 2019,

I've thought long and hard about what to say for this final post.

(For those of you who have followed me for the past 4 years, and perhaps discussed my blog with me at some point, you'll know that I wasn't sure if this day would come. After much deliberation, I have decided to close down "Lauren Likes Saint Mike's." Someday, possibly soon if I feel up to it, I may blog on some other forum, in which case I'll make note of it here. But I think I've outgrown this blog, for reasons you'll figure out as you read on.)

This post is coming to you over two weeks after graduation. I've needed time to think about it, especially because as I watched all my Facebook friends land jobs, get engaged, and generally move on with their lives while I sat around stuck in a sort of incredulous haze wondering how I actually got to this point, I suddenly lost the confidence that I had the authority to advise you on how to spend your next four years.

After two weeks of constant "What do I do with my hands?" moments, I realized that exactly what's making me feel a little self-conscious right now is in fact what gives me the position to say this--it's not authority. It's relatability, at a time when the people on both sides of this letter are in need of assurance.

Class of 2019, I am here to tell you that just like the majority of you, I do not know what I want to do with my life.

I struggled with this, and to a certain extent still do. As anyone would. I thought that this made me ill-prepared to graduate, and part of me was afraid for the coming of that day.

But it came. And when it did, I reported to Alliot, where a seat was waiting with my name on it in order to line up alphabetically for the procession. I was surprised to see that an envelope was waiting for me on the chair, with my name scribbled on it in pencil.

I opened it to find a brief, yet very important note. It was the letter I had written to myself during one of my first days at Saint Mike’s, in orientation.

It listed five things I wanted to accomplish during my four years, most of which I managed to do (how it is that I lived in Vermont four years and still never went skiing, I will probably never understand).

After the list, I wrote some notes to myself.

In big, bold letters: “TRUST SAINT MIKE’S.”

And the very last thing my wise 18-year-old self wrote: “Trust yourself.”



For those of you who may not know, Saint Mike's has gone through just as many transformations over the past four years as I have personally. They range widely from new bathrooms in the first-year dorms and my (unfortunate) bangs phase to an entirely new student center and my stint as a freelance journalist in Morocco.

Just as the exteriors changed, the faces changed, too. I had gone to Morocco during my Spring 2014 semester, meaning I didn't get to say any official congratulations or goodbyes to the people in the Class of 2014 who I had gotten to know so well. I didn't realize how hard that would hit me until I got back, of course. When I returned to Saint Mike's in the fall, I recognized almost no one, other than my friends in the Class of 2015.

Though I did meet a few of these new faces, I mostly kept to my now much smaller group of friends who were there before I left. At this point, I was totally consumed by my senior seminar documentary project. I was also working an internship, and trying my best to look outward and seriously consider what I wanted with my future.

Blame it on senioritis, or reverse culture-shock. Blame it on whatever you want. All I know is that at some point during my senior year, I stopped feeling like I belonged at Saint Michael's College. Although I had plenty of moments of rejuvenation--especially while giving tours and being able to remind myself what I loved about this place at least once a week--I was suddenly a stranger in a strange land.

Everyone has a Saint Mike's Story. How they got here, what they did, the experiences that made Saint Mike's another home to them. During the last months of my senior year, though I was scared to leave, I also felt as if I was trying to continue writing a story that should've already ended.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because you need to know, Class of 2019, that Saint Mike's is no longer mine. It's yours.

I think the straw that broke the camel's back was when we found out that the rumors circulating around Bergeron, otherwise known as Home of the MJD Majors Zombies, were true. The place that I grew up in over the past four years was being re-purposed.

There were good reasons for this change, mostly because it was going to give a much-needed update to our health services. However, most people in the department were against this decision. Bergeron wasn't the best space for us as it was, but we were making do and happy enough that we had our own place equipped with two multimedia labs. We were all very skeptical that the new plan that someone (not our department) had come up with, which was to relocate us (the third largest major) into the same hallway in Jeanmarie as the business majors (the first largest major), was going to work. 

Needless to say, I was glad to be graduating when I was, as I had serious concerns. 

Now back to graduation day. That letter to myself. The phrase written in big, bold letters.

TRUST SAINT MIKE'S.

I realized that my trust had faltered, knowing that Bergeron will not live to see another class of MJD majors. 

RIP Bergeron/Berg/70's Rest Stop/Pizza Hut/That place next to the tennis courts/Zombieland/and most recently, Ber_eron.

That's not to say that the incoming MJD majors need worry. If any of you are reading this right now, you should know that despite my opinions, I am still 100% certain you will receive the best education possible. That's because it doesn't matter where you learn on this campus, what matters is that you're here. And here, you have the best faculty and staff possible. Not only because they come from all walks of life, and they're all incredibly accomplished in their fields, but also because they care about you. They don't know you yet, but they will. They will know your name and face, and they will welcome you into their classes, their offices, and their lives. They will dedicate all of their time and energy to you. The professors in the MJD department are brilliant and resourceful people, and they will give you what you need. Jeanmarie will become the home to you that Bergeron was to me, because your professors (and classmates, by the way) will make it that way. Just as Bergeron was an integral part of my Saint Mike's Story, Jeanmarie will be a huge part of yours.

But the reason why recognizing where my trust lies now is so important because I know where my trust has shifted. It's because of the last line I wrote to myself four years ago.

Trust yourself.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Class of 2019, remember this: if, one day during your senior year, you begin believing that you don't need Saint Mike's anymore, then Saint Mike's has done you right.

And more importantly, you've done it right.

Yeah, you heard me.

If I'm being honest, my main reason for my vehement disapproval of moving MJD out of Bergeron was due to my fear of change and apprehensions about life after Saint Mike's. Saying goodbye to Bergeron was the beginning in a long string of goodbyes, the symbolic way of showing that my time here is over.

It's no longer mine. It's yours.

Right now, as you graduate high school and head into the Great Unknown, you need Saint Mike's. You need it the same way I did. And you need to TRUST SAINT MIKE'S.

And one day, four years from now, you will be glad you did. You will trust the education you received. Therefore, as you move on into the Greater Unknown, you will have something limitless, something that you'll carry with you.

You'll trust yourself.  

You need this, because like I said at the beginning, many of you--in fact, I bet most of you--will not know what you want to do with your lives. Graduation will come, and when it does, most of you will have changed your plans (I'm talking to you, kids who are certain they're going to grad school after this).

Just as you trusted Saint Mike's, you'll need to graduate trusting that you'll be okay, no matter what life throws at you. You'll know that it's perfectly fine not to have all of the answers. In fact, you might thrive off of not knowing in the end. Because once you decide you know nothing, you'll stop limiting yourself. The world will open up to you.

Saint Mike's is the first step. You've made a great decision, to be here. Take advantage of every opportunity that this amazing place offers you. Follow your instincts, not the path that you have imagined for yourself right now (some people are lucky enough to have their instincts match their imagined path; if so, you're much more figured out than I ever will be, kudos, and disregard this message). Consider the advice you receive from professors, friends, parents and mentors, but at the end of the day, follow your heart. 

I took me two years at Saint Mike's until I truly began trusting my instincts. Most of you know that story--it's what took me to Morocco. For two years, I trusted Saint Mike's whole-heartedly to get me to that point. In the time leading up to and during my semester abroad, I trusted Saint Mike's as the crutch that held me up when I was uncertain. On my graduation day, I trusted that the diploma being handed to me came with experiences that I could've only gotten at Saint Mike's. And now, I trust that that diploma is a considerably small step in everything that I'm going to achieve.

Make the most of these four years. Make them count. TRUST SAINT MIKE'S. Trust yourself.

Congratulations, Class of 2019. Saint Mike's is yours. 

In May 2019, you'll hand it down to the next lucky bunch. But for now, do what us Purple Knights do best: create your own Saint Mike's Story.

Dad and I goofing off on graduation day. I'll always be grateful for the day forever ago when he suggested I look at just one more school on the way home from a long weekend of college tours in Vermont (hint: it was Saint Mike's).

Best wishes of luck and love to you all. As my MJD friends like to say, "Keep calm and Berger-On."

- Lauren Kopchik

(PS: If you want to contact me about anything Saint Mike's related or my post-grad/alumni experience, please send an email to laurenkopchik@gmail.com as I won't be checking my SMCVT one as often. I may be heading off into the Greater Unknown, but I'd still love to talk about SMC with you!) 

2 comments:

  1. Congratulations Lauren. If this blog is any indication of your abilities, work ethic, and openness to new experiences, then I am 100% confident that you will go far and make us proud that you are part of the Saint Mikes family. That SMC stamp of approval up there tells the world that SAINT MIKES TRUSTS YOU....and indeed has trusted you since the day you came in the door. I wish you continued success in the greater unknown.

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    1. Thank you, Declan! As a wise man once told me, "Everyone works for Admissions." I'll always remember that moving forward. :)

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