“Meliora” is the name of my network when I turn on tethering on my cellphone. Kind of ironic considering its meaning (“Ever better”, for those of you who don’t know) and my phone’s ability to provide increasingly spotty data coverage…I digress. Think what you want of this, but this coupled with my graduation ring basically being glued to my finger and my memories are reminders of five wonderful years. This entry is a feeble attempt to describe what these five years have done for me.
Up until this point, my life has always followed a strange path. Leaving Singapore at the age of 9 to move to America, I had the privilege of gaining a small (300 students Kindergarten-12th grade) liberal arts, private school education from 4th to 12th grade. I then served in the Singapore Armed Forces as a medic for 2 years before I arrived at the University of Rochester.
I remember the first time I set foot on the University of Rochester. They had already sent me my acceptance letter and I went to visit by myself for Spring Open Campus. I honestly don’t remember who my Meridian (tour guide, for those of you who don’t know) was, but it was a rare warm and sunny day and I instantly felt at home. For those of you keeping track, this was in early 2005 and I did not set foot onto campus again until the end of August, 2007.
Say what you want about U of R, both good or bad, but every university has both its own strong and weak points. Despite the bad weather that goes almost year round, Rochester is a beautiful place in the summer and the week or so padding both ends. If you think I’m crazy, stay in Rochester for a summer and see. What changed me and what I love always and forever are the community of people – students, faculty, administrators, and everyone else. Yes, even “Have a happy silly day, movie star” guy in the pit. You know who I’m talking about. AND NEVER CALL IT THE COMMONS! IT WILL ALWAYS BE THE PIT!
Never in my life have I seen such a close-knit community. I’ll admit, I have never been a student at another university, but I hear stories about students at other universities sabotaging each other’s academic endeavors, seeing more people than their brains can fathom, and professors that remember your names are unheard of. Department picnics are a good way to nurture these relationships, as well as to score some food without using your close-to-nil-mealplan.
I’m not saying that everything was sunshine and daisies while I was there; nor will I say some thing as cliche as “these were the best days of my life!” – I haven’t lived long enough to make that sort of assessment – but they definitely rank up there. Before matriculation, I only knew how to interact in small groups, I largely kept my opinions (if any) and feelings to myself, and I never really felt like I belonged anywhere because of my floating back and forth between countries.
At school, I felt like I actually belonged. I learned to talk to complete strangers in classes, labs, extracurriculars, and work. I began forming my own opinions and discussing them. I was pushed harder (academically) than I had ever been pushed before, and then my professors kept going. I learned to teach a group of my peers. I learned to lead in front of the most dedicated lifesavers I’ve had the privilege of knowing thus far. I figured out ballroom dancing was something I was pretty okay at. This is where I learned that trusting someone completely with everything about you was okay and that talking candidly about anything and everything was acceptable.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about going to London in the fall. But it’s been a month since I’ve left the (sometimes) sunny city of Rochester, and I’ve missed it and especially its people more and more as each day goes by. We laughed together, struggled together, learned together, loved together. The University of Rochester was indeed an alma mater, or “nurturing mother” toward my personal and academic growth and I grew “ever better” in my years there. Those of you who are still there, enjoy every day you have remaining there because they don’t last forever.
All the memories of staying in Hoeing or Gilbert until the wee hours of the morning during freshman year, living and working in Starbucks, study sessions and problem sets in Gleason or ITS, frantic reviews in Todd Union – these will stay with me for as long as I have my memory.
Thank you for everything you’ve given me. I love and miss you all. Meliora.
(Photo credit: Random Google image of Rush Rhees with an Instagram filter)
Please share any thoughts/sentiments you have in the comments or at my email.