by Rochelle Sun, Class of 2019
I still remember the blend of anxiety and excitement that I felt four years ago, sitting in the middle of the Eastman Quadrangle as convocation began, surrounded by a sea of unfamiliar faces that I would eventually come to know as my peers. That day, if you would have told me that the journey I was about to embark on would span three continents and include life in six cities, I would have had a hard time believing you.
If you went on to chronicle all of the challenges and changes I would face over the next four years, from learning early on that my choices in initial majors were considerably misguided, to discovering an entirely novel passion for global health policy that I would one day dream of pursuing in my professional career, I’d tell you that you were talking to the wrong person.
But this is exactly what has been the most rewarding characteristic of my experience here at the University of Rochester. In ways that I find difficult to articulate, this University has created an environment that has fundamentally questioned, pushed, and tried me, all while providing me with spaces and people who collectively ensured that I felt validated and supported at milestones throughout this process.
It would be dishonest of me to suggest that I didn’t experience long stretches of time where I felt wholly lost in an elusive and exhausting process of self-discovery that I was convinced I had to complete during my undergraduate years, but I can say that I find myself on the other side of this transitionary period with a hearty (albeit, likely naive) supply of knowledge, experience, and self-awareness. Taken together, these effects comprise a basic toolkit and compass to help me navigate what I can only assume to be yet another tumultuous adventure moving forward.
As I prepare to close this chapter and turn the page to begin the next, the word that most centrally captures the multitude of emotions I feel is gratitude. As a first-generation American, the opportunities that this university has granted me access to have reached far beyond what my parents could have dreamed of for me when they immigrated to the United States 25 years ago. I never would have imagined that I would get to see my words published in the legislative texts of the European Union and share policy discussion dinners with health ministers from nations around the world before I graduated.
I feel incredibly lucky to have spent this chapter of my life surrounded by some of the most ambitious, passionate, and kind students from all corners of the globe, and to have been the recipient of guidance and instruction from world-class faculty who have time and time again demonstrated genuine care for my development as a scholar. More than anything, I look back and find myself amazed at the amount that I have learned through the courses and experiences that this university has exposed me to.
It is certainly daunting to anticipate navigating the challenges that await me after graduation without the supportive network of people and resources that I have built during my time here. In some ways, I share many of the same feelings of anxiety and excitement that 17-year-old me did when I first moved into my temporary home beside the Genesee four years ago. I know better now than to assume that I have any clear idea of exactly what obstacles and opportunities the future holds for me, but if this next journey will allow me to grow anywhere remotely close to the amount that my time at the University of Rochester has, I welcome it with an open mind and an open heart.