It’s official, I graduated college exactly one year ago. It doesn’t feel like it’s been a whole year most likely because I am still in denial that I ever graduated. In my opinion, graduation was the most bittersweet experience of my life. To say that I was an emotional mess during Senior Week is an understatement, I simply did not want to graduate because I never thought I would be able to make it in the real world. Roanoke College to me was my home and my little bubble that I was not ready to break out of.

Though I am definitely still in denial that my undergrad career is over, I have learned a lot over the past year of my life. I think the most important thing I learned is to accept that the future is unknown. I’m the type of person to always have a plan and stick with it, and for the longest time I had a problem accepting change. Over the course of the past year I started with not knowing what I was doing with my life, then I got a couple jobs, started a blog, and became a published writer. Everything started to fall into place in ways I never could have planned. Looking back to my final days at Roanoke I never thought I would accomplish any of what I have accomplished during the past year.

I’ve also realized how much I have grown in the past five years of my life. It’s crazy to look back and think of who I was at 17 years old heading off to college, and now at 22, I’m a completely different person. During my time in college, my closest friends and professors influenced me, collectively teaching me lessons and molding the person I have become. Throughout the past year of my life I have held on to those traits and lessons, implementing them in my every day life.

Over the past year I have moved on from past friendships, strengthened the ones that matter, and created new ones. Not everyone is meant to stay in your life forever, which is a scary thought, but you can’t grow as a person if you’re being held down by the past. I also met the love of my life (less than two months after graduating) which was another thing I never thought would be in my near future when I was leaving Roanoke.

Coming home to your hometown can be a sort of culture shock after you graduate college. Everything is the same, except for yourself. In college I learned new things, became my own person, discovered who I am, and matured as a person; but that doesn’t mean everyone else grew with me.

I was wrong to think that I wouldn’t be able to make it in the real world, because I think I’m doing pretty well for a 22 year old.

My graduation day was by far one of the greatest days of my life. I am so proud to say that I graduated from Roanoke College, and I am so happy to have shared my experience with such amazing people.

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Though my year was lacking fraternity parties, wing nights, sisterhood retreats, cocktails, and most importantly, classrooms, I think I’ve had a pretty great first year in the real world. To all my friends who are graduating this weekend, congratulations! If I can survive the real world, so can you.

Emily Riane

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