Ibadat Javed '22

Remarks to Graduates-May 22, 2022

Good morning everyone! Firstly, I would like to congratulate the graduates! It is an honor to be up here today and it is a privilege to graduate from St. Lawrence University.

After a long senior week, we’ve finally made it.

I am going to start today by telling you a story that took place four years ago, on a breezy night in August. This story takes place right after my mother drove away, following a long day of bickering and tears. She made my bed for the first and last time that it was going to be properly made that year, hugged me tightly, and drove away, leaving me all alone. In the middle of nowhere, quite literally.

Up until that moment, I had only been excited about college. I spent my summer counting down the days until “freedom.” I began packing for college during the first week of June, unable to contain my enthusiasm. I never even imagined what it would be like to be 1, 800 miles from everything I had ever known. 1, 800 miles away from the scent of my mother cooking dinner each night. From the sounds of my brother yelling at me from the other room. The nightly arguments at the dinner table that would always result in laughter.

I looked around me after Orientation was over for the day. Not a single familiar face. The air felt cold on my bare arms-I had never felt cool air in August before. Where was I? I felt an overwhelming rush of fear. What had I done? That night, I called my best friend back home and cried for hours. Between sobs and hiccups, I mumbled just a few coherent sentences. I asked her whether I would be okay? Would I like St. Lawrence? Would I even make any friends? Would I succeed here?

Four years later, I look around me and see familiar faces everywhere. I see friends that have taken me in as their own family. Friends who have stayed up with me until odd hours of the night while I had the infamous “SLU Flu” and fed me chicken noodle soup from the pub. Friends who spent lazy Sunday afternoons at Dana, discussing all the homework we had put off until the last possible minute. Friends who cheered me on during my tennis matches, proofread my research papers, kept me company in ODY, and encouraged me during every step of my journey at St. Lawrence. Friends who lifted me up during the valleys and celebrated with me during the peaks.

I see professors who have welcomed me into their classrooms and guided me during my time here, whether it was during our semester together, or years later. Professors who have invited me to their office hours to listen to my stories and ideas but also listened to me vent when I needed to. Professors who valued my mental health, especially during the pandemic as we all struggled to navigate our way through the world of Zoom and online learning. Those who granted me extensions when I emailed them in an oh-so-timely manner, minutes before the assignment was due. Those who pushed me past my comfort zone, whether it was during a workshop in Advanced Creative Fiction or while I completed my honors project this past year.

I see buildings that have become home to me. Carnegie, where I spent my Tuesdays and Thursdays during the first semester of college, learning about the Politics of Sports with Dr. McConnell. Griffiths, where I took Beginning Acting and spent numerous hours each week discovering just how bad of an actor I really was. I thank Professor Josh Vink every day for his endless patience with me that fall. Richardson, where I took a majority of my classes as a Creative Writing major. I think I could find my way around that building with a blindfold on. I became familiar with the notorious Richardson steps, the chalkboards in the classrooms, and the Delmage Lounge with the most comfortable chairs. Richardson is the building where I learned my love for poetry. Where I cried the first time I ever got a 100% in Shakespeare. Where I spent hours engaged in enlightening conversations with my professors and peers, tackling themes of oppression and sexism within Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, navigating through Edgar Allan Poe’s dark tales in Critical Methods, and understanding our roles and responsibilities in a global community during my senior seminar.

Four years later, I discovered that I actually love to hike, canoe, and run through the trails around campus. I learned that fall was my favorite season as I drove the Adirondacks and watched the leaves turn. I found out that 60 degrees is actually a warm summer day up here in Canton. And when the school sends out a frostbite warning, they’re being serious.

During the countless hours I’ve spent laying out on the quad with my roommates, sitting on the first floor of the Student Center listening to a combination of gossip and laughter, and walking to the Hoot on Tuesday nights, I find myself smiling at how lucky I am. To have professors that inspire me. Friends and family that nurture and support me. Buildings that have housed me during the long nights of finals week, providing me with resources, peace and quiet, and fully stocked vending machines. If only I knew that night in August, as I cried outside of Rebert South, that I would come to love this home of mine; I would spend my winters sledding down the intramural fields on a ten-dollar sled from Walmart. I would marvel at my frozen eyelashes and make snow angels. I would only complain a little bit when it snowed during the last week of April. I would even be okay wearing the heavy, fur-lined boots that my mother bought for me my freshman year.

I called my best friend just two weeks ago and cried on the phone again. Only this time, it was because my heart is breaking as I leave this place.

SLU gave me friends that I thankfully know I can never get rid of. Lifelong connections with mentors that I can rely on for advice, encouragement, and support. A place I know I can come home to, whenever I have the urge to walk down Saddlemire, jump off the rope swing into the freezing waters, or enjoy one of those sunsets that paints the sky hues of pink and purple.

I am so proud of each and every one of us, for not only navigating our way through our undergraduate careers but also through a pandemic. We were certainly not dealt an easy hand but the unique COVID semesters taught us adaptability, perseverance, and courage. As we make our way through the next chapter of our lives, I hope that these values guide us during the journey.