Senior Retrospective: Gwen Frenzel

I’m writing this with a half-eaten pint of ice cream staring back at me, evidence of my frustration at the multiple drafts I’ve written in the trash. How can I reflect on Vassar, looking back on how it has been for me and hopefully for some of you, in less than 1000 words? We all were accepted to Vassar, we decided to come here, and we liked it (or the financial aid) enough to stay until graduation. And we all learned a hell of a lot along the way. One of the reasons I decided to come to Vassar was so that I could learn to be a better writer. But I still can’t think of the words to say. So, I’ll talk about another reason I decided on Vassar: to test my ability to be hundreds of miles away from my family and friends. My time at Vassar has been an experiment in stepping outside of my comfort zone. As I’m sure my family, friends, student fellow, Transitions intern, Luis Inoa and Ben Lotto can attest to, I was an emotional wreck first semester freshman year, unsure how to go about life without the comforts from back home that I had never been away from. Thankfully, those same people were also full of resources that helped me open up and call Vassar home by the time I returned to campus in January.

At some point that year, I decided to run for Raymond VP, in some form of decision making I can only attribute to my student fellow urging me to do so. On top of house team, sophomore year was makred by taking academic chances. I was (remarkably) accepted into International Studies 110, which was to travel to Cuba over break. It would be my first time leaving the country, except for Canada, which doesn’t

feel like leaving the country when you grow up about two hours from the border. I also applied for a class at Otisville Correctional Facility with Professor Larry Mamiya, which proved to be one of the most enriching experiences of my four years. I told my dad I was taking the class, because he was my emergency contact, and pressured him to not tell my mom, who I knew wouldn’t be happy with my decision. The men I met at Otisville brought a perspective to the classroom that is not present on Vassar’s campus. I evidently decided that I should be making the most of my time at Vassar, and applied for a JYA program that traveled around the world. I ended up horribly sick, hospitalized almost every day for two weeks, on the other side of the planet from my mom, the only person I wanted with me through what felt like the last days of my life. Coming back to Vassar from abroad is an odd experience, especially for those of us who traveled to countries with limited access to resources we are accustomed to. I decided I wanted to meet new people and try new things, so I joined the Misc. Of course, senior year is full of new experiences, too: applying for jobs and preparing ourselves for the “real world,” all while writing a thesis and trying to enjoy every last opportunity Vassar has to offer before our time here runs out. I was scared, nervous and quiet when I first came to Vassar. But I’m proud of myself for constantly challenging complacency, calamity and the status-quo. I have pushed myself to be a less quiet, more confident, and a more thorough thinker than I was when I came to Vassar. And if nothing else, my diploma is proof of my perseverance and growth. As we move on with our lives, I want to encourage myself, and all of you, to keep challenging ourselves. Don’t become overly content with your job, with relationships, with your lifestyle. You all have taught me so much, and I know you can, and will, do great things.

—Gwen Frenzel is an environmental studies major. She is the outgoing online editor of The Miscellany News.

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