In the days preceding Commencement in 2018, I kept a strict schedule—hosting my parents on campus tours, engaging with my professors and mentors, celebrating with friends and classmates. In the midst of all that activity, I had little time to meditate on what I had experienced and how much I had transformed over the previous four years. It felt like being on a moving walkway, such as you might find at an airport: whether I was walking or standing still, things moved at an accelerated pace.
This year’s virtual Wesleyan Commencement looked very different than my own. In reflecting on that difference, I have wondered what it means for graduates. Could the unfilled space of campus life create new space for reflection over time?
Over the last few months, I have noticed countless WeChat posts in which graduates have reminisced about crucial life events in their last four or five years. This appreciation and recollection of a full arc of time was not prevalent in my class year. In 2018 (and perhaps before), our memories gravitated heavily toward Commencement, the last chapter of senior year. Many of the incidents of our first 3.5 years were selectively removed and forgotten.
This year, by contrast, the thesis talks, social gatherings, dinner parties that served mostly as my memories of Wesleyan became less significant. Perhaps this will mean that graduates’ memories of their time at Wesleyan may be more balanced, with a fuller picture of their college life. That’s the way I think it should be, and I hope that graduates’ feelings about Wesleyan and Middletown remain perpetually strong, just as I hope the same for my own.
Juntai “Hunter” Shen ’18