Wait, I have a Bachelor’s degree?

As of May 17, 2014, I am officially a college graduate. At 2:00 PM that afternoon, I graduated Summa Cum Laude from Western Kentucky University and our Honors College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Popular Culture Studies, as well as a second major in French and a minor in Performing Arts Administration. I loved every moment of my 4 years at WKU, so to sum up, I thought I’d give a few highlights of the experiences I had in the last few weeks that made my time as an undergrad so special.

I was fortunate enough in my final semester to only need 3 classes to complete my major and minor programs, but in order to maintain my scholarship, I had to remain a full-time student. Since I had the extra time in my schedule, I decided to take Italian 101 and 102, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. Our class was blessed with a wonderful professoressa, Paola Mannarelli, who not only helped us all learn the language, she encouraged us to ask questions and engage with her as often as possible, which included cooking nights. Though I couldn’t attend these as often as I would have liked, it was always a memorable experience when I did, and I’m so thankful for the experience. To top it all off, Paola and two of my classmates, Emily and Hadley, also attended my graduation ceremony (after attending Emily’s graduation that morning) and brought me flowers. It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of such a great group of people. Below are pictures of the first cooking night I attended when we made gnocchi and my visitors at graduation.

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I was also very fortunate this semester to be invited to attend several banquets for various organizations across campus. In April, I was honored as the outstanding graduate in my Pop Culture Studies major, and my roommate, Kaitlynn, (pictured with me below) was chosen as the outstanding graduate in her major, Broadcasting.

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One of the benchmark activities of my semester was my Thesis Defense of the Honors Thesis Project I’d been working on since the fall 2012 semester. I defended my project on April 28 and passed with honors. Lifting a weight that had been on my shoulders for over a year was an immensely gratifying experience. This photo of my mom and me was taken by a group of my friends who supported me at the defense at went out to celebrate with us after.

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Another of the many banquets to attend was hosted by Study Abroad and Global Learning for all graduating students who spent time abroad through the university. I was fortunate enough to study abroad twice during my time at WKU — in 2011 in England for an Honors class, and in 2012 in Montreal for an internship. Pictured below are photos of me with several of my closest friends at WKU. First is one with Kaitlynn and Lendee, my friends since we lived in the same residence hall our Freshman year and attended the Sundance Film Festival together in January. The second is me with my lifelong friend Ryan, who was my date/stand-in mother since my real mom couldn’t attend the banquet. That’s what friends are for, I suppose. The third photo is me wearing my SAGL stole that has the flags on it representing the countries where I studied abroad.

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Perhaps the most bittersweet end-of-the-year gatherings was the one I attended for the Dean’s Council of Students, an organization I’ve been a part of for two years. We represent Potter College of Arts and Letters and had a large group of graduating students this year. It’s always hard to say goodbye to a tightly knit group, especially when some of the members are your close friends. Here are two of my favorite photos from the night: the first is a recreation of a photo we took at the BBQ last year, and the second is one that rather accurately captures my friendship with my lovely best friend Katie.

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And finally… to the real graduation ceremony. Overall, the ceremony lasted over three hours, but thankfully, it passed rather quickly. I was able to sit with my roommate and near many of our close friends, and we were among the very first people to walk the line (unfortunately, this also meant we had to sit through a long list of the other graduates, but what can you do). The following are a few of the photos taken during graduation day. The first is after my roommate and I walked the line, the second is my mom and me after the ceremony, and the third is with my dad, who flew out from California with my stepmom for the ceremony.

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And finally, a snapshot of my diploma, which arrived in the mail earlier today. It’s safe to say that opening the envelope that contained evidence of my work for the past four years was nothing short of surreal. Here’s to the post-graduate life.

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