Ushered in with a haze of camaraderie and a mountain of chocolate, the Class of 2016 started their freshman year off in 2012 in the Alumnae House with a classic Vassar tradition, the Vassar Devil. Only four years later, they prepared to coalesce in the Alumnae House once again, this time in aniticipation of their celebratory goodbye: Commencement.
Like the storied past of that delicious chocolate treat, 100 Nights is steeped in Vassar’s history and the event is a major tradition for every class. With that said, the event is still a marker for the last 100 days of school for seniors. More than one student reported that the complementary drink they received had a bittersweet twinge.
As part of year-long programming for seniors, 100 Nights plays an important role in the lives of the College’s oldest current students. Unlike other events like 50 Nights, which is mostly billed as a last opportunity for nightime debauchery, 100 Nights offers space for a more reflective experience. Free wine in hand, guests are invited to mingle with old friends, remember their best times in dorms or with orgs and deeply consider what this school has meant for each and every one of them.
The Alumnae House plays a critical part in helping students acknowledge and accept the fact that they will soon be entering an entirely different formal, vocational environment. It dually serves to ease the transition from apprehension and anxiety of the unknown into a more independent environment.
Senior class president Lauren Garcia ’16 understood the importance of keeping an event such as 100 Nights in the Alumnae House. Though in the past, the senior class has descended on the Aula for the formal evening, Garcia felt drawn to the projected ambiance of the Alumnae House, one she describes in contrast to the general environment she’s encountered: “Vassar connotes a lot of emotions for me, but there exists the pervading sense of a sort of unsophisticated air about the campus. For me, this completely vanishes with the Alumnae House; not only is it a nicer setting, but its classier, more adult-like and just all-around connoted with more refinement than any I’m used to here.”
Even so, Garcia does admit that there exist many commonalities between last year’s 100 Nights that was held in the Aula and this year’s. Similar food and drink were served, common dessert themes like chocolate, fudge and marshmallow were also upheld. And of course, the same electric air of excitement and wonder pervaded the space. To a certain extent, the exciting potential for 100 Nights is strong enough to take hold in an space.
Class of 2016 treasurer, Chelsea Carter, elaborated on this year’s logistical process and its tangible results for students: “This year’s 100 Nights, like last, will be a catered event, but the main difference we’re excited to bring for students is transportation. Usually, students have to walk from the Terrace Apartments or other senior housing to the Alumnae House, an endeavor that can be kind of a pain considering the dress code for the event.”
She continued, “So, in order to address this issue, this year we’ve reserved vans and had students become van-certified so that people don’t have to risk ruining their fancy attire if the weather is not cooperating. 100 Nights is supposed to be an event to remember, but we just want to make sure that that doesn’t occur for the wrong reasons.”
On the topic of reminiscing, 2016 Class Vice President Maya Toler ’16, and 2016 Class Secretary Samantha Smith ’16, expressed a similar split sentiment for the event as Garcia and Carter. In Smith’s words, “The whole idea of the night is bittersweet; I mean, I’m excited I got to this point and I’m glad for all the friends I’ve made and the experiences I’ve undergone, but the fact that it’s ending is also very upsetting.”
It appears that 100 Nights, while ostensibly a night for looking to the future, is one also centered on remembering the past. Smith posited, “It’s good to see people you might not have had a chance to talk to for a couple years, people from your old fellow groups, past circles you’ve kind of unlinked yourself from all in a space where time isn’t as of great a concern as much as your relationship to them.”
Aligning with Smith’s vein of thought, Garcia agreed, “It’s so strange to remember how scared I was to come here, but now I think of Vassar as my home. I think it’s the change that’s overwhelming, because it seems scary to me now that we’re leaving, scary that we’re going to start making steps into larger environments and scary to imagine all the situations that will impact our lives so profoundly in the future.”
As the event winded down and seniors trailed out in their formal clothing, the Almunae House was enveloped in quiet calmness. In suit coats, dresses, slick pants and buttoned shirts, the Class of 2016 ventured forth into the night. Where we they headed? Home, for sure, but also deep into a world of new possibilities. Though questions of the future may have filled their minds, these unsure seniors can rest assure that there will always be space for them in the Alumnae House.