Prefrosh Passages: The Graduate’s Perspective

Well, I’ve finally done it. I’m officially a high school graduate. On June 24th, I walked across the stage, got my diploma, and officially moved on from the world of SATs, ACTs, AP exams, and other such nonsense. Graduation weekend was crazy, but I survived it — and, more importantly, I received great feedback on my first blog post! I’m thrilled to jump right into the Harvard community with these little weekly musings.

So… where to begin? June 23rd was a big day for me. In the morning I was at school for a Kente Cloth Ceremony for students who have sought out cultural enrichment in high school. At the end of the ceremony, we were given kente cloths to wear with our other honor cords for graduation. I was chosen to speak at the kente cloth event, and it was a great opportunity to celebrate achievements with some friends.

From noon to 7 p.m. that day, I party-hopped with a friend, driving from one grad party to the next. I was looking forward to celebrating with friends, but there was also that awkward dilemma of whether or not to bring gifts to every party. In the end, I decided to get modest gifts for only my closest friends, which seemed to work out okay. Fifteen-dollar gift cards to the bookstore where I work will give them a chance to check out some summer reads while also checking in on me at work.

The thing about grad parties is that they’re often a mix of friends, family, and maybe a few teachers. This combination creates some awkward moments; it’s easy to run out of conversation topics when you’re sitting alone at a table with your classmate’s great-aunt’s ex-husband. I find that when people ask me about plans for next year, the conversation always heads in the same direction:

Random Party Guest: “So, what are you doing in the fall?”
Me: “I’m headed to school…in Boston.” (Notice the hesitation to mention Harvard.)
Random Party Guest: “Cool! My cousin/sister/nephew went to Boston University/Northeastern/Boston College! Which college are you at?”
Me: “…Harvard.”
Random Party Guest: “Whoa. You must be so smart!”

… and then I feel judged. How does you mention that you’re attending this particular Ivy League school without feeling like a stuck-up, bratty know-it-all? Hopefully this is a skill that will improve with time.

Also, food becomes central to celebrations, leading to additional dilemmas and awkwardness. I’m a vegetarian, so I know how to avoid hamburgers and hotdogs at most celebrations and find something to eat that satisfies me. People’s reactions to my vegetarianism are varied, ranging from “Oh. What do you even eat?!” to “That’s so cool! Good for you.” Regardless of others’ opinions, it works for me. I also ate about six slices of graduation cake (plus an additional cupcake or two) in one weekend. It feels rude to decline the offer of a celebratory piece, but after about four slices in a three-hour period in 80-degree weather and sun, I was ready to call it quits.

In the midst of the partying, my cheap five-dollar flip-flops from three years ago broke. Of course, that meant that I had to slowly shuffle into each backyard wearing a pair of broken sandals, then slyly kick them off somewhere in the grass; I can only imagine what people thought.

Driving was another story entirely. The gas pedal responds a lot differently to bare feet than shod ones. Believe me.

Despite all of the apparent craziness, I really did have a fantastic time socializing with everyone before the big day. I was pleasantly surprised to walk into two grad parties only to be handed a card from the host’s mother — congratulatory gifts from their families to me. It meant a lot to me when I realized that in such a hectic and exciting time, these classmates and their parents had thought of me. These are the people I want to keep in touch with.

Then came June 24th. Graduation Day. I went out to breakfast with my mother, came home, got changed, took pictures, and headed to the venue. Our graduation ceremony is held at a theatre in downtown Syracuse. (Luckily, it was air-conditioned.) At my school, students aren’t ranked, so no valedictorian or salutatorian. We don’t bring in a graduation speaker either —students are chosen to fulfill specific roles in the ceremony. Five students were chosen to speak in addition to our class officers. I was selected to lead the class in the singing of the alma mater at the end of the ceremony. The only problem was that no one in my class knew the alma mater. So after sitting through an hour-long ceremony and seeing a beach ball get tossed around onstage during a speech, I walked up to the podium. Before I sang, I had to make a little comment: “Class of 2012, it’s been a pleasure. Your maturity and composure, especially during this ceremony, is something I won’t soon forget.” Sarcasm goes a long way — I got a few laughs from the audience and the administrators on that one. I proceeded to sing the alma mater, mostly by myself, and then marched offstage with the rest of my class.

It was over. We were really graduates!

After picture-taking and hugs outside of the venue, I was ready to head home and get changed. I still had three more graduation parties to attend that evening. These were wonderful; I enjoyed eating and celebrating some more, but I was also tired. I went home and slept well after an eventful weekend.

At the end of the day, it still hasn’t sunk in that I’m done with high school. Part of me expects to return to the same old homeroom and the same old locker in the fall. But the constant reminders of future Harvard classmates and mentors — from the emails to the Facebook groups to the texts — really have me excited. I can hardly wait to set foot on campus! Regardless of whether or not graduation has sunk in, I’m officially done, and that’s what matters most.

Brianna Suslovic ’16 is ready to become a freshman again.