Today is my very last day as an undergraduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. As life would have it, I’m not actually at UAF, or in Alaska, or even in the United States to commemorate this moment. Originally when I planned to come to Thailand, I knew I would miss commencement with my friends and professors (bonus parents, as I like to think of them), and all the celebrations that surround this occasion. At the time when I chose to come abroad, I didn’t think I would miss those things for even a second. I guess it all just goes to show what I did and didn’t know about myself, and what I’ve learned since. As the day of graduation approaches, I find myself longing for Fairbanks. I want one more stroll through the botanical garden, one more pint and nachos at the pub, and one more walk through campus as the leaves are budding and my XtraTufs survive one more break-up season. I want to smile at every face I see, and hug every passing friend. I want to turn to my fellow graduating friends and say collectively, “We did it!”, though we know that many have done it before, and many will do it after. “No matter,” we’ll say. “WE did it!”
I think most of all, though, I want to take one last undergraduate walk through the O’Neill building and poke my head into the office of every professor, staff, and advisor who has in one way or another gotten me through my time at UAF. I want to sit down and bother them at in inopportune time once more, not to ask for a letter of recommendation or grade or advice this time, but just to say “Thank You!”, and make them know just how dear they are to me.
Perhaps more than anything else I’ve gained through my collegiate experience, I value the family I’ve made in SNRAS the most. They are truly blood, not by relation, but by common passion and interest for the environment. Through undying and perpetual interest at what makes up the soil beneath our feet, the waters of our rivers and streams, and the forests that surround us; through these things, I feel bonded to them for life. I love them as I love my own biological parents, and have nothing but reverence and respect for them and the impact they’ve had on my life. To leave them without properly saying goodbye is heartbreaking, but thankfully there is at least one thing I do know about myself: I’m terrible at goodbyes. Do not underestimate me when I say this; I am simply awful at them. Miserable. Just really, really bad. In the past, this has made things difficult. In this case, I’m thankful for this disability, as I know it will bring me back to UAF in perpetuity as a student (there’s always something to learn, I feel), and perhaps later, as more than that. So though I cannot express these sentiments face-to-face as I would like just now, I know that come next September, I’ll be back on campus, roaming those hallways, and interrupting schedules just as before. So though this is graduation, this is not goodbye.