May 3, 2013 1 Comment
Tomorrow Anthony Baracat (’13), who interned with Be the Change last fall, will walk across the Quad to receive his degree in writing and rhetoric before beginning an internship with a Northern Virginia company this summer. He took a moment this week to reflect on leaving JMU and discovered the essence of what makes JMU, well, JMU.
Saying my last goodbyes
by Anthony Baracat (’13)
On Thursday I walked out of my last final exam of my undergraduate degree at JMU. One of my favorite professors shook my hand, and I walked to Warren Hall for the last time to get my name card for Saturday’s ceremony. The College of Arts and Letters “walks” on the Quad, so I obviously thought about that view of the mountains, of students lounging after class and of a gorgeous view of Wilson Hall. But I also remembered that last Sunday, just three days before my final, my professor had us over for pizza and a review session— to his house.
JMU was my second choice four years ago — and it was the place we used the bathroom on the way to another college on road trips. I am the first person in my immediate family and on my father’s side not to attend that other college.
But don’t tell me it’s a coincidence that I didn’t “get in.”
After my first semester at JMU, I remember talking with my sister about class sizes. She explained how the professor never said her name in her small class — about 100 students. Whereas mine brought pizza into my class — of 20 students.
Can’t you see that when I say JMU, I’m talking about people?
How about another coincidence? The first person I saw walking out of Warren was my best friend from high school. I will admit that when we looked at each other sauntering past Carrier — with both a sense of freedom and uncertainty in our eyes — I got a bit choked up. I contained myself with great masculinity, then returned home to write some emails and visit a few friends. I put off saying my last goodbyes. On Sunday I asked my church friends: If you hear of a writing job in Harrisonburg, will you let me know? Pathetic, you might say, but I was prepared to live here at all costs — and still might.
Maybe I’m not ready to leave JMU and Harrisonburg. Or maybe the timing’s just right, and I’ll be ready when I arrive at my new destination. Yes, maybe JMU—the school, the people—have prepared me well for whatever comes next. And maybe that’s why it’ll be hard to leave.
So if you graduate Saturday, say thanks, because none of us did this alone. Shake your father’s hand. Give a nod to your first professor or tutor during the ceremony. Hug your friend — the one who studied late with you and got you into D-Hall that one time. If you don’t graduate, enjoy saying congratulations and really meaning it.
Consider the past, take in the present and be prepared — not afraid — for an open and exciting future. There’s only opportunity out there. And when you call a fellow alumni or email with a teacher, you’ll be reminded that you never actually left JMU — because JMU is people.