Nearing end of semester, we must say our farewells

It’s very easy to find oneself grasping for footing in the midst of the final two weeks of the spring semester. For freshmen the daunting sights and sounds of their first springtime on the Vassar quad are paralleled by the mountain of final papers and exminations that appears to be endless. Deadlines seem to jump off from the calendars and agendas into the unoccupied wooden chairs of the library’s tables. For sophomores and juniors it’s about rhythm and focus, getting into that steady grind we call “finals.” As a junior, I can’t speak to the feelings of being a graduating senior. For those in their final days at Vassar, the usual feeling of accomplishment that follows the stapling of one’s last paper is matched by trepidation and anxiety toward the next chapter of their lives.

In the midst of this regimented chaos we call “final exams,” how do we say goodbye? Goodbye to the year, our courses, the dormitory communities we call home, our teammates, cast members and friends. It’s easy to recognize the people in our academic lives that need to be recognized, but what about those we unfortunately ignore. The dining staff at the ACDC, support staff within the College Center, the locals of Poughkeepsie who offer their food on Tasty Tuesday, the student you happen to always run into on your way to class each week? There are dozens of people and moments that need goodbyes at the end of a college semester as it coincides with the arrival of spring.

It’s during this time that we put endless hours into final papers and projects. Whether we are preparing from the midway mark of the course like our professors would recommend or begin research right before Study Week begins most of us still end up staying up until the sunrise in the depths of the library piecing together citations, VPrint money and punctuations to meet our deadlines. It all comes together when we click “submit” or “send” and according to the academic culture, that chapter of our studies are done and thankfully finished.

Sometimes I get attached to final papers. While there are plenty of moments throughout the courses where I’m seeming extremely detached from the subject at hand, writing a successful final paper forces oneself to incorporate emotions, passion and pride. For many students we are at the cusp, either about to fall off the edge toward a lower grade or ascend to that great grade we’ve been hoping for all semester.

The papers are scribbled in colored ink with only notes in look like hieroglyphics that only the writer can understand. We trek from printer to printer until we find the sufficient ink to finish the job. At last, we click submit and as students we in a way submit ourselves to our fate, unsure of what grade we get until sometime in the summer.

I’ve reached a point in my academic career where I’ve noticed that accomplishment is more important than the letter grade. I could receive top marks and feel that sense of pride and gratitude, but what am I taking with me? As I wrote in my last piece regarding the concept of challenging learning, I want to ask how we can rightfully say goodbye to a semester? How can we do justice to the endless hours behind the computers, courageous comments made in class discussions and new friendships we have?

If certain friendships are meant to stay within the Vassar gates, let them be. But how do we truly say goodbye to a semester? How do we greet summer as Vassar students and spend these months away from campus? Before I embark on the final stretch of exams and papers, I’m trying to figure out how to say goodbye to my courses. Instead of just dropping the paper in the submission folder outside the Political Science department office and being free I’d love to continue the discussion and the teaching experience, as that final paper is just a step to something bigger.

We find ourselves once again in the midst of the academic hurricane we call finals. The papers will find themselves to the professors who will electronically submit one of six letter grades to the registrar. With no looking back, grades will be registered and as we sip on the tastes of summer one afternoon, we will receive our GPAs via email. Let’s just hope we’ve said our proper goodbyes beforehand.

 

—Harrison Remler ’14 is a Political Science major.

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