Monday, May 17, 2010

A Weekend in Paradise.

Smith College. Northampton "Paradise City", MA.
Graduation, a ceremony universally regarded as the end of one's current academic stage; in my case, undergraduate graduation from Smith College.  Yes, I "graduated" in December 2009, but I wanted to be a part of Smith's many traditions - which I experienced this past weekend, so my family flew out from California to New York on Thursday and we drove 3 hours to Smith, and I am so grateful that we did.

I was hesitant about returning to my alma mater because while I have amazing memories of the campus, most of my time spent at Smith was trying to figure how to get away! I went abroad junior year and graduated early, adding up to only 2.5 years on campus. I think that shows how much I actually wanted to be there.  However, arriving on Thursday and spending the weekend in my old room helped me reminisce of the 4 years that have passed so quickly.

I arrived at Smith with my family greeted by a really messy apartment... not the way I left it! I made it in time to Baccalaureate at 330 in Helen Hills Hills Chapel.  I ran into a few old friends and we listened to Carol Christ, president of Smith, talk about our journey over the years - the losses we have faced, etc... There were inspiration readings by fellow classmates and slideshows of campus and friends..We concluded the event by performing one of our school songs with Kazoos...yes Kazoos, and stomping!

I had a great dinner with my family at Osaka that night. My first and last time at a wonderful Northampton Japanese restaurant.  It's too bad that I didn't try more food in Northampton while I was there. It probably would have kept me sane during those long winter months...

Woke up bright and early for graduation rehearsal...2 hours of boredom followed by free food! 
My parents made a spur of the moment decision to drive to Boston since I had no other plans for the day.  We drove 1.5 hours East and  ended up in Boston Commons.  We walked around the park, enjoyed the beautiful weather, had some bubble tea, and ate a large seafood dinner before heading back to Smith. However, there is one thing I realized about my family vacations: no matter how blue the sky is or how serene a park can be...we end up looking like this...

Pretty depressing, huh?

800am alarm clock. Get dressed in your crisp, white dress. Put on those dark, shined shoes. Seniors, it's IVY DAY! 845am: red rose distribution in front of the President's house. What is Ivy Day? Smith tradition, duh! Ivy Day has been a part of Commencement since 1879.  Ivy Day convocation includes the recognition of faculty members, student prize announcements, class gifts to the college, etc. This day has been a Smith tradition for over a decade! "Junior Ushers" carry the ivy chain to lead Seniors into the quadrangle, following alumnae of the prior years. The last part of the tradition is the planting of the class ivy. 

Friedman B4!

Lining up on Paradise Road.

Junior Ushers and the Ivy Chain.

Following the parade, my family and I grabbed Thai Garden for lunch.  A great meal I hadn't had since my birthday in 2007, I think... That afternoon, Smith held many receptions for parents to meet faculty and staff.  Of course my parents were too tired after lunch so we visited the Art Museum - only my 2nd visit ever, then I went to a few receptions myself - President's reception, East Asian Studies, and Economics reception.  I will definitely miss my professors- especially the ones that challenged me to the point of tears. Professors, it was well worth it.  I am a wiser, more knowledgeable person because of you! You will be greatly missed.

That night, I made a reservation at Mulino's Trattoria for dinner at 630 since I wanted to make it back to Smith at 800pm for Illumination Night. But it took them so long to even bring out our salad, we left after an hour and a half of waiting so that I could make it to Paradise Pond on time for the lighting ceremony. The Senior Class Candle-lighting Ceremony is a more recent Smith tradition - seniors holding lighted candles assemble on the shore of Paradise Pond as our class- year sign is lit up along the pond. 

Candle lighting by Paradise Pond.

Smith 2010 sign!

Illumination Night - thousands of rice paper lanterns adorn the pathways of Smith for a couple hours after the candle lighting ceremony. 

Pathway to Nielsen Library lit by rice paper lanterns- real candle inside.

Senior Step/Sophomore Push - As Seniors walk through the lantern-lighted pathways, they walk to their "push" off of the Nielsen Library steps by Sophomore "push" (Sophomores volunteering at grad). Each wave of seniors is serenaded by the Sophomores then PUSHED off of the stairs. Literally! 

My view from Senior Push...getting ready to get pushed off the stairs!

Around 930 my family headed back to Mulino's for the food we deserved hours before...only to be underwhelmed with the undercooked pasta. It's okay - family time is well worth it.

My brother and I waiting and waiting for our pasta!

This is where it ends. 915am line up on Mendel Road in the Quadrangle. Found the King house sign and stood by with all my King house friends I made first year.  Even though I never lived in King, I was "honored" as the King house honorary member for practically living there my first two years. The procession wrapped around the Quad as the graduates lined the street and waited for the faculty and staff to walk through, including Rachel Maddow- our commencement speaker! Bagpipes and all led the procession followed by 733 women in black gowns adorned with black, white, and gold satin on our hoods. 

The weather was beautiful, although a bit hot in our dark gowns, but clouds rolled in with perfect timing. The President spoke and honored global leaders, then Rachel Maddow got up to speak-with her cute red, horn rimmed glasses! She was hilarious and instead of the boring "life is short" speech, she gave us an insightful speech of how "life is long" and we should not settle for self-triumphs but be a change in this world. Tis is true, Ms. Maddow. I want to tell wonderful stories to my grandkids! All of this insight was said in lightheartedness but also with sincerity.  I have even more respect for Ms. Maddow now than when I watched her show :) 

Rachel Maddow

Following the procession of 733 women graduates, we filed out to the King/Scales rotunda for Diploma Circle, yet another Smith tradition. All the graduates were given a random diploma on stage so that afterwards we could spend 30 minutes trying to figure out who has whose. We get in a LARGE circle and start passing our diplomas to the right until we receive our own. I was seriously one of the last 50 waiting for my diploma... Someone must have been holding onto it because I saw a few names go around multiple times. Anyhow, I finally received mine and tried to find my parents.

On our way to Diploma Circle. Hey look- Rachel Maddow talking it up.

Part of the Diploma Circle...someone had mine...

While walking towards the President's house to find my parents, I bump into guess who? Rachel Maddow. I quickly asked if I could take a photo with her, and nicer than any celeb she happily took a photo and congratulated me on my hard work and good luck with my future endeavors.

Yay! What an honor to have such an intelligent brain next to mine.

In front of the President's House. 

And that's that! Four years of undergrad (or should I say 3.5 years) have gone by so quickly. I am older, a little wiser, and much fatter than when I first stepped foot onto Smith soil. I have made friends that I will come to know forever, friends that will go forever in history, and a friend within myself. Enough with the sappy-ness. I am excited to finally have my undergrad diploma, but who knows- I may be going through another couple years of schooling ... So long, Smith- Maybe see you for my 5 year reunion?


Mary E.Carey said...

Great post! (Our local Pioneer Valley blogging guru To Devine called it to the local Facebook crowd's attention. )

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