In the week and a half leading up to movein day at Vassar, I experienced many early mornings. I had said goodbye to nearly all of my best friends from high school and watched them drive away as they left for college. When August 28th, 2012 rolled around, only Lexie and Carol were still around to come see me off. My parents and I drove off a little after 5AM, leaving behind my sister and some of my very best friends. That was the beginning of my Vassar journey.
We arrived at 7:30 AM, and Raymond House Team didn’t even have my key yet because my parents and I were way too early. We spent the day fighting as they tried to unpack my stuff and I refused to let them. Part of why I hadn’t wanted to let them unpack my stuff was because I had smuggled a bottle of Kahlua in my luggage and I knew they would have flipped out. However, our fighting had a lot more to do with the fact that everything was about to change. I am the youngest of my siblings and my parents had both just retired, so they were about to become empty-nesters. Saying goodbye to my parents was so incredibly difficult, even though I knew they’d be back in a few weeks for Freshmen Families Weekend.
New beginnings are hard for so many reasons. Perhaps the biggest reason is because they come immediately after something ends. The end of my time living on Long Island was hard because I had watched all of the friends I had known since childhood venture out into many different directions. The end of my time at Vassar is just as difficult, though the circumstances are so different. I’m incredibly fortunate to have met some of my best friends on my very first day at Vassar. Sarah, Jenna, and Kaden have been there right from the beginning, in our Fellow Group in Raymond, and living together as seniors has been absolutely joyful. Despite the typical housemate issues that everyone goes through, I feel closer to them now than ever before, and having to let go of our wonderful home in SoCo 5 is so hard. While we did not go through adolescence together, we did become adults together, ready to take on the world.
My first home away from Long Island was Raymond House, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. I stumbled into House Team as Freshmen Rep after running on a whim and was met by open arms. Raymond House Team and our House Advisor Mariyah helped me feel at home even as I experienced a very difficult transition to college. Raymond House was the first place on campus where I first had deep, critical conversations at late hours. It was the place where I participated in my first Super Bowl “party” (if eating Domino’s and not actually watching the football part counts). It was a place that I gave my heart and soul to as House President. It was home, and leaving at the end of sophomore year was more difficult than I had ever imagined it could be.
As I said, I ended up as Raymond Freshmen Rep practically by accident. And yet here I am, at the end of May 2016, having just spent two years of the VSA Executive Board, including this past year as VSA President. “Roller coaster” barely begins to describe my experience on the VSA. I’ve been through the good, the bad, the really really good, and the bitter ugly. I’m forever thankful to the people who helped me through it, especially Ruby and Tyler. Even through the hardest times, their support kept me going. I also truly believed that the work I was doing was important, and I wouldn’t have kept doing it otherwise.
As difficult as it things have been, I don’t believe I could have had such a truly powerful educational experience anywhere else. I participated in URSI right after my freshmen year with the amazing Jenny Magnes, and I’m so glad I had that opportunity. Even though my physics major didn’t work out, the experiences I had are so important to who I am now. My first Education professor, Maria Hantzopolous, helped awaken a passion I didn’t even realize I had, so much so that I immediately declared a correlate after finishing her class. The following semester, I made it my major after taking classes with Tracey Holland Erendira Rueda. Erin McCloskey was an incredibly supportive and helpful advisor, and her class helped me think about things I had never considered before. Finally, Colette Cann, as my thesis advisor, pushed me to make my research better than I thought possible, and believed in me when I was ready to give up.
The last group of people I want to thank are my friends that I made after founding the Middle Eastern Students Collective with Essie last spring. Before Vassar, I was unsure of what my racial and cultural identities meant to me, but MESC helped me find something I had been looking for for a long time. Yasmeen, Parisa, Nora, Yasmine, Soraya, Ethan, Karam, and everyone else who has been in and out have been a family to me at times when it felt like Vassar didn’t care about us. Additionally, my Arabic professor, Mootacem Mhiri, was a role model I could look up to as I begin a career in higher education.
On the booze cruise, a friend asked me what my reflections on the last four years were. After some thought, I said, “Vassar is good and bad at the same time”. I want to remember both. The good and the bad made me who I am today. I will be the first in my family to get a Bachelor’s degree in the U.S., and in two years I’ll be the first in my family to get a Master’s degree at all. I’m ready.