For many BYU students, graduation is coming in a few weeks with the April convocation and commencement ceremonies, which are being held virtually over Zoom because of COVID-19. The speakers have been announced with Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles giving the commencement address. The caps and gowns have been purchased to add a semblance of normalcy amid the unorthodox graduation, but the age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” still hangs in the air for many graduates.
Upon entering BYU as a freshman, students have been told the welcoming message of “The world is our campus” on the northeast corner of campus, but for some students, the inverse message has just as much merit, “The campus is our world.” Commencement is definitively marking the beginning of graduates’ journeys on to the rest of their life, but paradoxically it also marks an ending.
The last year and a half of classes at BYU have been almost completely online and many are finding that the graduation they have worked toward is missing the closure and accomplishment that it is meant to bring. The long essays, the countless hours in the library, the all-nighters for the comprehensive final exam in Organic Chemistry, and after all this some are met with a feeling of longing for a normal commencement leading to the rest of their lives.
I was not someone who thought I would come upon graduation with fear, but rather thought I would relish in the freedom that “growing up” would bring. The paradox of growing up is that it leaves you with a nostalgic want for times when life was clearer and decisions were simpler. While we can all acknowledge that growing up is part of life, we must also acknowledge that fear of the unknown future or leaving the familiar home of BYU campus are also a part of life.
To those who do not know what they are doing next, the questions, “What are you going to do after you graduate?” and “Oh, what do you want to do with that major?” might send chills through a student’s body. Graduation is not the end of life as students know it and the beginning of the unknown. Instead, graduation is another step in figuring out what a student wants out of life. After leaving BYU, graduates have the freedom to explore life with the skills and resources they gained during college.
Although campus may no longer be the world of those graduating, it will always hold a key place in answering the implicit questions of “Who do I want to be?” and “What do I want to do?”
— Emily Strong