As our amazing seniors get ready to graduate and take on the real world, they reflect on the marks they have made, the people they have connected with, and the experiences they have had during their time at Rutgers. Follow along for the highlights of their journey, as told in their own words. Congratulations Rutgers SASHP Class of 2018!
When asked to write this post, I knew I really wanted to reflect not just on my time at Rutgers, but specifically on my time with the Honors Program. I could talk about being an Ambassador with so many of you, about the amazing events and programs I’ve attended, or about surviving honors organic chemistry, although that is a time I’ve really tried to block from my memory. Instead I decided to go way back, to my very first taste of the Honors Program – my scholars day in 2014. It only feels fitting on my last few days with the honors program to remember the first, right? I remember a few things about that first day, being completely intimidated by how accomplished all the ambassadors were (but guess what, now we’re those people), awesome food for lunch, and a poem.
If you’ve ever been to scholars day you know exactly what I’m talking about – “Ithaka”. I remember sitting there completely confused as to why 1) we were getting a poem to end the day and 2) why no one gave me an explanation of what it meant? As I went to more scholars days over the past 4 years, always ending it with that poem, I realized that the deans don’t give us an explanation because that is for our interpretation. So here I am, four years later, finally able to tackle why we listen to this poem – at least from my perspective.
The poem has a very specific focus at first read, a story about epic journeys, battles with monsters and adventures in far off places. But, the way I see it, even though we don’t tackle cyclopses every day, this poem is just one big metaphor for college. We don’t have to be sailing to lands we don’t know or fighting things double our size, this poem has plenty of ways it can relate back to what we do every day. Without going into the whole poem, I wanted to pull out a few lines.
The first comes from the beginning – “hope your road is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery.” There’s no time in my life, and probably in the future that I will do more, learn more and see more than I have in college. Nothing has felt more adventurous to me than the trips I’ve taken during college. Freshman year, I took an honors seminar with 14 other lovely students about Ireland, leading us to a week of adventure in Ireland together. I had never flown out of the country, let alone with 14 people I only knew from 8 weeks of class! From castles to bike rides to cliffs bigger than you can imagine, it was a giant adventure, and certainly one I’ll never forget. Fast forward two years and I find myself in Israel on adventures with two of my best friends I would have never met without the honors program. Not only was this an opportunity to learn and discover about places where my family is from but also to discovery more about myself mentally, spiritually, and physically (some of those hikes made me realize how out of shape I really am!)
Moving further through the poem, we get to a line telling us – “keep your thoughts raised high, as long as a rare excitement, stirs your spirit and your body.” Even when the going is tough, as long as we keep our passions in mind we can push through whatever gets thrown at us. Since high school, I knew I wanted to do genetic counseling after graduate school (and if you don’t know what that is, find me after, I’ll tell you plenty). With that though, came lots of prerequisite classes that I either had no serious interest in or was just plain bad at. Half of these classes felt just like memorizing random facts that I’ll never use again (seriously, when will I need to know every organic chemistry reaction again) or I found myself completely frustrated or stuck on a concept. In these moments, I tried to keep my thoughts raised high and remember the thing that stirs my spirit – my passion for counseling. With that, clearly, I made it, but it wasn’t easy. None of us smoothly sailed through college, but we’re all here today because we kept that excitement alive and are ready to put it to use out in the real world.
The next line that catches my eye says that “you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;” While college didn’t teach me to sail a boat, we’ve had so many firsts that make college special. We had a sitting president speak at commencement for the first time, celebrating 250 years of success here at Rutgers. I presented a poster for the first time based on research that, you can probably guess, I did for the first time here at Rutgers. I had my first exposure to diversity that I never got at home, allowing me to learn more about the people and the world around me. I’ve learned about social justice issues and watched my peers fight for things that matter to them which has been incredible and something that has been unique to my college experience.
Another line I personally find special is – “don’t hurry the journey at all. Better if it lasts for years, so you’re old by the time you reach the island” I feel that we often get so caught up sometimes in the rush of the four years (or less for the over achievers) of college, but it has been so important to gain wisdom and really savor the entire journey. It can be easy to come into college, completely focused on academics and preparing ourselves for “adulting,” but personally, I’ve really tried to make the most of this journey just like I know many of you have. I threw myself into sorority life, something I never thought I would do. I was the most amazing community and experience, although it definitely took off 10 years of my life and probably added a few gray hairs at times. I pushed myself to get involved with all aspects of the honors program from tutoring, peer mentoring to my personal favorite, being a senior ambassador. I realized halfway through junior year that technically, I could have graduated in three years, but I then realized how many things I would have missed out on if I tried to hurry the journey. I wouldn’t have been as active in my sorority, completed the honors program or even just enjoyed my senior year with the people I had spent the last three with. It’s easy to want to get out, but standing here makes me realize how grateful I am to have used these four years to their full potential.
And lastly, my favorite line: “Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.” I think Ithaka means something different to everyone, and that’s the beauty of this poem. Right now, I see it as the journey through college, but anyone sitting here could have their own interpretation. Maybe you don’t feel like you’ve reached that Ithaka yet, but that’s okay. Through everything we’ve done the past four years, we’ve become wiser, more experienced and ready to take on the world. We’re at a turning point, at the end of one journey, ready (or not) to take on the next, whether that be a job, grad school, or just some much deserved time off. Importantly, I think I’ve finally reached my first Ithaka, and now we are all ready for the next journey.
– Rebecca Padersky