In three days I will receive a piece of paper. This piece of paper — better known as a college diploma — will substantiate my belonging within the community of the educated, or so they say.
Years of hard work, countless cups of coffee, an occasional epiphany and stacks of newspapers stand behind the piece of paper they call a bachelor’s degree in international studies and Spanish. This diploma may grant me some level of status in the outside world, but personally it represents much more than the simple completion of 120 hours of undergraduate coursework.
I have never been a fan of traditions. This may seem somewhat ironic considering the myriad of traditions which permeate Texas A&M, but I prefer not to repeat actions for the sake of repetition. This belief has led me to adore this university not for its maroon-infused traditions, but for the courses, the opportunities and the faculty that provided me with the conditions to understand that my education will not end with a piece of paper. A&M gave me the space to begin in my acquisition of knowledge, but the lessons learned will not stop when I walk across the stage on Thursday.
I can recall many days in which I walked out from Academic Building after learning something that fundamentally altered my understanding of the world only to walk underneath the burgeoning trees spotted along Military Walk. It is these moments of rumination, not some summa cum laude distinction, that prove to me that I succeeded throughout my time at A&M.
The piece of paper I will receive also stands for the sacrifices and support from my selfless family. When I walk the stage as the first person from my family to have graduated from college, it is Molly Burnham, Stephen Burnham and Vickey Perez whom I will thank, not myself. My parents — who are, frankly, more redass than I ever was — believed in my abilities when I could not see them in myself. It is them who instilled in me the desire to go beyond what is acceptable and pursue excellence in all areas of life. I can only look forward to the close of this chapter because of the many pages they wrote.
I would be remiss if I did not mention The Battalion. I vividly remember walking into the basement of MSC L400 expecting to augment my writing skills, but I never anticipated the transformation of my aspirations that followed. From spending countless nights in the newsroom — often past 2 a.m.— to interviewing individuals from all walks of life, the student-run newspaper became my home — my family — amid a larger family of 68,000. Playing a small role in sharing others’ stories became my story, and it is these stories which push me forward.
All in all, it will be challenging to say goodbye to the people and places who radically transformed my life. This university gave me so much, and I know I will leave a piece of myself among its halls. So on Thursday, I know I will walk off that stage, a piece of paper in hand, and march triumphantly forward.
Jordan Burnham is an international studies and Spanish senior and news editor for The Battalion.