Thoughts from a New Graduate

By Victoria Ward ’18

Graduation came so fast, and I was flooded with so many emotions all at once. I wasn’t sure which one was expected of me to display — the excitement, the sorrow, or the nerves. At a loss, I sat in the ocean of navy blue robes with a proud reflective smile painted across my face. As the long list of names was read, I lost myself in the sea of memories and accomplishments from my time at Hope.

It struck me hard as I looked at the faces that I had spent so much time getting to know over my college career. The eyes of strangers who had become my family and for some, back to strangers again. I had watched as the light in their eyes changed with life experiences as we grew together. I witnessed new lines form under their eyes that showed the impact of long nights awake studying, laughing, crying, and living together. Seeing the traces life had left across my loved ones reminded me how lucky I have been to have had them in my life. Time froze around me as I remembered that they would leave my life as quickly as they had entered it, and we’d be left to the mercy of texting and Skype until we would see each other again.

Shifting my thoughts, I compared who I am now versus how I always pictured myself on graduation day. While much changed, the principal characteristics still remained true. I still love beaches, languages, running around in the woods climbing trees, art and theatre. Most of my goals I had either accomplished or amended around my ever-changing life. I was more invested in my theatre degree than I expected I could be and more confident in it as well. Theatre is a difficult field (like many of the arts) because there are a lot of unknowns in the profession. People outside of the craft often ask the age old question: “Oh you’re a theatre major… What are you going to do with that?”

I started my first two years at Hope pursuing acting. I loved the art, and I wanted nothing more than to always have the family that is made during a production. The part of a liberal arts education that I love is it teaches you the versatility of the arts. As a theatre major, I was required to take classes in acting, technical theatre, design, and directing, which ultimately makes a better theatre artist regardless of the specific field because you learn how to speak everyone else’s language. It was through the other classes where I discovered lighting.

Lighting is the combination of all my passions blending together into a playground of creativity and expression. Once I started, I knew I had found my calling. My passion in life is bringing people together through shared experiences.

“If you can bring people of all backgrounds and classes together in one room and get them to laugh and cry together and experience being human it helps them realize that we’re not all that different on the inside. On a human level, we can come together and create something beautiful that makes you feel for a change.” Nathan Allen – Director

This quote from a former director led me to create my manifesto. Even if a theatrical production doesn’t change everyone who leaves, I want to help remind people of their humanity during the time they were in the theatre. Compassion is vital, and theatre can open and expand our minds to find common ground, giving us an opportunity to celebrate our differences. This is the same reason I love languages.

I started learning French in seventh grade and instantly felt a connection to the language and culture. I continued through high school, and it seemed only fitting to get involved in the French Department at Hope. There were definitely times during my college career where I struggled and questioned my choice, but I wanted to stick it out. After many sleepless nights of debating if studying abroad was going to be worth it, I finally decided on applying to the CIEE program in Rennes, France. My confidence in the language wasn’t going to grow until I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone. On January 3, 2017, I got on a plane to France to start the biggest adventure of my life.

For me, the first couple years of college was about finding new parts of who I was. My time in France became about finally putting all of those pieces together. A few weeks into my time abroad, I began to feel very shaken and stripped of my cultural identity. I am someone who usually thinks out loud to process, and without my newly made Hope family right there or my theatre to run away to when I felt lost, I finally had the chance for proper introspection. Being alone and having time to think gave me the chance to recreate who I was. I spent a great deal of time reading philosophical and religious texts in the park by my homestay and truly pondering my beliefs. I became more confident and comfortable in being alone and being with my thoughts again. I branched out of my comfort zone and let my curiosity guide me for the first time in my life, and I loved it.

Hope has a motto of making its students “global citizens,” and I have always respected this ambitious goal. It wasn’t until I was completely immersed in a culture so similar yet so different from my own that I realized just what being a global citizen meant. I came to understand how complicated human interactions can be when you add cultural, religious, and political differences into the mix of varying opinions. I had never before felt so tested in my faith and patience than I did in France and again after I returned to the states.

My new global view has shifted drastically in my understanding of how humans function. I could feel where it was easier to stick with what was familiar and safe instead of embracing the unknown that is other ways of doing life. I felt that urge to quit and retreat to what I knew, but I refused to be discouraged in my dream of bringing people together peacefully. If I could manage to put my upbringing aside to at least hear how another person lives their life, I could be living proof that it is possible to extend that hand and find common ground in a time where our world is at such unrest. My time at Hope was not only where I gained my scholastic education, but also where I learned more about humanity. I lost myself and found myself more times than I could have imagined. I believe I was meant to end up at Hope to find myself and to strengthen my character before going out into the world as a working, influential adult.

Today I feel prepared for life after college. Having a study abroad experience taught me how to go with the unexpected and take things as they come and how to live in the moment and let go of the anxieties that stem from the unknown; something that I, as a planner, would never do. I now know that I can survive thousands of miles away from my comforts and adapt to a new life and be okay. Hope helped me learn and establish a solid foundation for my career and build networks before I had even graduated. My scholarships and support from the Hope faculty and community have inspired me to continue giving back to this incredible legacy in any way that I can.

Looking back to the little freshman me, I never could have guessed in my wildest dreams how my Hope story has played out after it has all been said and done. I never thought I’d end up doing technical theatre instead of acting, and I never imagined my time abroad would have been quite as impactful on my life as it was. I have gone from a young, ambitious girl to a worldly, confident young woman in these four years. There are no words for how thankful I am for my opportunities as well as my hardships that have come my way and shaped me into who I am today. The life lessons are invaluable. I’m excited to step into the working world knowing I’m well prepared to succeed and that I have a support network cheering me on.

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