This past Sunday I walked through the Van Wickle gates for the second and possibly last time of my life. The first time I walked through the gates was in September 2013, when I first enrolled at Brown University. This time, I walked outside of the gates, into the oncoming traffic (just kidding, obviously they blocked off the road so there wasn’t any traffic) as an alum of Brown University.
Needless to say, the past two years I’ve spent at Brown have been absolutely rewarding. I am very fortunate to have attended such a diverse, liberal and welcoming university, and to have met such amazing friends, professors and mentors. Of course, I’d be nowhere without the help of these people, as well as my family and friends back home. Last but not least, alhamdulillah!
The commencement itself was lengthy and full of tradition. A baccalaureate service took place on Saturday. For those of you who’ve never heard of baccalaureate before (i.e. me), it’s basically a somewhat religious celebration of the graduating seniors. Our baccalaureate was incredibly multi-faith and multi-cultural. Moreover, it took place in the First Baptist Church in America—it’s literally called that, and it actually is the first Baptist congregation in the United States. The church was built in the late 1700s, and it was erected “for the publick worship of Almighty God and also for holding commencement in.” So I suppose we were destined to have part of our commencement there!
The baccalaureate service started with the lion dance and adhan (the Muslim call to prayer), and also included the Japanese taiko, a dance performance, verses from multiple faiths, and last but not least, the benediction. I was in awe of the diversity of cultures and faiths represented during baccalaureate. Thinking about it makes me miss Brown already!
The commencement on Sunday involved a full day of activities. I met my friends Ariana and Shierly for the commencement procession at 9.15am, and didn’t get to see my parents again until around 4pm in the afternoon. Obviously, we could have had a one or two hour celebration instead, but I suppose that throughout the years, Brown has obviously built up numerous traditions. Moreover, 2,500 diplomas were awarded on that day, making the ceremony even longer. The waiting was worth it, though!
Commencement at Brown takes place on the same weekend as Reunion Weekend, so hundreds of alumni participated in the graduation procession. The procession was led by the Brown University marching band (who walked backwards through the gate, in order to avoid bad luck from walking through the gates multiple times), then the president, deans and professors, the alumni, and last but not least the seniors. By the time we walked through the gate (outwards this time, instead of inwards), the professors, deans and alumni were lining the streets and clapping and cheering as we walked by. It was actually so fun!
After all the seniors walked by, we then lined up on Benefit St and waited as the alumni walked past, and then we headed back to the Baptist Church for the College Ceremony. The church didn’t fit everyone, so we simply sat on the grounds of the church as President Paxson gave her speech. After that, we headed back to the Main Green for the University Ceremony. I know, it’s kind of complicated—there are three ceremonies, the College Ceremony (for the undergrads), the University Ceremony (for all graduates including Masters, PhD and Medical students) and then the Department Ceremony (so the Computer Science Ceremony for me).
Although I’m glad that it was a nice and sunny day, the scorching hot weather also sucked. The University Ceremony took place on the Main Green, so we were pretty much sitting under the sun, practically asking for skin cancer (okay, maybe not that dramatic, but you get what I’m saying). We didn’t have everyone go up on the stage to receive their diplomas—that would have taken such a long time in an already lengthy day. Instead, representatives were called up on stage to receive their diplomas, student orations were given, honorary degrees were awarded, and of course, President Paxson bequeathed us with her incredible Latin-pronunciation ability. I’m sure everything’s been thought through by tons of super thoughtful people, but like, what if someone faints during the University Ceremony? It was so hot and so bright, and everyone was so tired. The white color of the commencement program was literally blinding my eyes.
Right after the University Ceremony, students went to their respective Department Ceremony locations to receive their degrees, and then the day was done. One thing that I regret is not taking a photo in front of the Indonesian flag on display (I was going to, but by the time I went there it was already dismantled…). Nonetheless, it was a really memorable day that I will never forget. Again, thanks to everyone who helped me in my journey, and congratulations to the Class of 2015!
Right now, I am about to embark on a 22-hour flight from New York to Singapore, followed by another flight to Jakarta, Indonesia. I’m spending roughly three months in Indonesia before joining Vistaprint as a software engineer in the fall. Long story short, I’m excited for the next chapter of my life.