On May 20, a processional of Lehigh’s best and brightest will enter Goodman Stadium as students and exit as Lehigh University alumni.
Just four years earlier, that same group of students anxiously asked for directions to Dravo and Rathbone, saying goodbye to the comfort of their hometowns and hello to the vast potential of college life. Now they are faced with a similar feeling of anxiety. But this time, Lehigh is the safe comfort zone being left behind, and the potential ahead is much larger.
A graduating class filled with every type of student, from first-generation college students to third-generation Lehigh legacies will wave their goodbyes to our school and say hello to a new chapter.
While some have their paths clear-cut for them, whether that be to graduate school or to a dream job, for others the future is less clear.
College is known to some to be the best four years of our lives — the place where lost high-schoolers grow into young adults and are prepared for the workforce and life’s obstacles. College is the place where it all comes together, as many students are faced with independence for the first time.
There is also a strong stigma that coincides with graduating college. A track to higher education perpetuates the idea of existing on a social clock, a predetermined plan for what defines success. This clock may contribute to the anxiety that Lehigh students feel as they step away from the safety of their Lehigh bubble, making it easy to forget that Lehigh, too, once felt like uncharted territory.
If anything, the lessons from Lehigh show us that it is OK, if not encouraged, to disrupt that social clock, and ignore what society assumes of us. Despite what may be deemed the proper course, Lehigh prides itself on its ability to challenge students to think unconventionally and go against the status quo. While designated initially for the classroom, those lessons are equally, if not more, applicable in our own lives.
Lehigh provides us the tools to grow as individuals, but leaves it to the students to make their own choices thereafter.
Lehigh teaches us that there is no right next step.
Whether Lehigh serves as the place where it all became clear, or just another stop on the journey, it is an influential chapter in all of our books.
Looking back we will reflect on who we were before and after we were shaped by the students, professors and classes that provided us with the tools for whatever the next step may be.
No matter where we once came from or where we choose to go after, we share a commonality that Lehigh was a place that in one way or another, shaped us all.
But that does not mean that we are expected to leave here with the answers to every question, the skills to tackle every job, or even a strong sense of where we want to go next. If we cannot accredit Lehigh for giving us those answers, we can thank it for forcing us to ask the challenging questions and for placing us in life impacting situations firsthand, forcing us to live and learn as we go.
As students wave goodbye to Lehigh at the end of the month, they may leave with that same sense of vulnerability that they entered with in 2015. However, because of Lehigh they will leave equipped to tackle the next step head-on, confidently knowing that their time spent at Lehigh gave them the tools to face life’s challenges.