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!
Dear SAS Honors Program students,
Congratulations! After years of squeezing ourselves onto packed LXs, lying to ourselves that a mostly-caffeine diet was okay, and one too many fat sandwiches from RU Hungry, we’ve come to the finish line.
Or so we tell ourselves, because we want to mark this significant period of growth and change by calling it an ending. But we also know that once we exit the stadium on convocation day, we enter the limbo between the ending of our preparation, and the beginning of action.
To be candid, it’s hard for me to remember my whole journey at Rutgers. Rather, what come to mind are snapshots of moments—sitting in the North Tower lounge in our new Rutgers shirts, listening to our RA explain Throwdown. Thinking to myself, “hey, Orgo isn’t actually all that bad,” and then taking that first exam. (Spoiler alert: it was a disaster). Chasing first-years down at involvement fair to tell them exactly why they should join my student organization. And to now— reflecting on a journey that is stitched together from these little moments.
As a photographer, I cherish these snapshots, because they tell a larger story. The moments that stand out to us do so for a reason—they represent the challenges that we have overcome, the growth we have experienced. The pictures that flash through your mind when you think about your time here at Rutgers are the ones that actually matter, not because they were particularly exceptional or unique, but because you chose to give them meaning.
But I have a question for you all—how many of those moments were ones that you planned? How many of those moments were ones that you expected?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from photography, capturing those fleeting moments between planned shots often makes for a more compelling story than the pictures I take with intention. Be it the shy smile of my friend in front of the lens, or the glow in their eyes, it is in these transient moments that I have found meaning.
Some of these moments came when I joined the executive board of my student organization, She’s the First, which raises money for girls who are the first in their families to get an education. On top of handling schoolwork, research, and other commitments, like many in this room, I decided to join this organization my freshman year. As a first-year, my eyes were filled with excitement, the desire to change the world, and the innocence that exists only until one sees the horror of textbook prices. I attended my first meeting in a small classroom tucked into the top floor of Tillet Hall, where we made posters to raise awareness about the power of education. Mine read: Girls + Education = Change. After four years of planning events, raising funds, and talking to students all over Rutgers about why this cause matters, I can say with conviction that change has happened. But not in the ways that I expected.
Of course, my heart filled with joy when we read letters from our young scholars each year as they talked about joining their town’s sanitation committee or teaching their parents what they learned in school. What surprised me most, however, was what I saw happen within myself. The moments that shaped me were not the ones in which I stood at the front of the room leading a meeting, but rather those in which I sat in the back, letting a younger board member take over. The snapshots that fill my head are those of students from another organization steadily streaming into our fundraiser, or when I used my voice to lift up my fellow students with an “I believe in you.” As a timid first-year, my desire to make an impact stopped at ideas, but these instances taught me how to start bringing those plans to fruition.
When I joined, I never thought to find so much value in these seemingly insignificant moments. Don’t experiences have to be of a particular caliber to be considered inspirational or life-changing? But, this accumulation of small experiences over time has showed me what a truly meaningful journey is—it is one that challenges you, changes you, and questions you. Despite the inhuman levels to which my heart rate rose when I stressed over planning an event or managing everything in my life, it was all worth it because I learned to lead through collaboration and support without inhibition.
We all have small moments like these that fill us with something larger than we could have expected. You could call it purpose, a sense of belonging, fulfillment—whatever the name, this is our fuel. This feeling? Hang onto it.
Because that is what will carry us from the end of this phase of our lives into the next. These little moments have prepared us, shaped us into the people that we will be.
Be it by mentoring other students, teaching FIGS classes, or travelling the world, all of us have made our marks on Rutgers. These marks are now just collections of pixels, but there is still a larger picture to be created. So as we sit here today, I ask you: what are the snapshots that fill your mind when you think of your time at Rutgers? Whose faces stand out to you from the crowd? What fleeting moments do you want to hang onto forever?
Let these answers carry you over the threshold to the future. Take the memories of your brownstone Honors hall that introduced you to your best friends as you step foot into your new office. Remember the professors, staff, and peers who guided you as you impart your wisdom on a trainee in the future. Keep with you those unexpected moments that you could have missed if you blinked, because they will open your eyes as you enter the operating theater, the business meeting, or the archeological site.
And along the way, take plenty of snapshots, because you never know when you’ll find a moment worth holding onto in between the clicks of your camera.
– Ankita Veta