There are five days before I graduate. Five days before I get my Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics. Five days before I am set to step foot into the “real world.” It feels like just yesterday that I arrived on campus full of hope and wonder, ready to take on the next four years of my life. It’s a bittersweet feeling. I’ve made this place home. I have settled into my niche here. I have lost myself, and found myself again right here on this campus. How on Earth am I supposed to leave?
This place is so special to me. I knew it was going to be an important place the moment I set foot on this campus. It gave me the freedom to explore deep within myself and find what it was I was missing. It gave me important lessons I wasn’t willing to learn. It gave me courage and strength to live my truth as a queer Afro-Latina. I feel privileged to have attended a university where being myself was encouraged. A lot of people have asked me how the UAlbany campus is when it comes to inclusion of the LGBTQ+ and every time I say that it’s great. I can never say I felt out of place here. It created an environment safe enough for me to even realize that I was in fact queer. There are very important resources on campus for LGBTQ+ students, such as the gender and sexuality resource center, and an LGBTQ+ support group through the counseling center. I know not many other college campuses can be like that. I still encourage everyone to explore themselves when coming to college, because who knows what you’ll find. Even academically this was the case for me. I came to this school as a business intended major and along the way, I discovered my passion for learning and studying language and how it works. That was all because I failed a class and had to take another gen ed. You never know the cards that you will be dealt, or the result of the game.
This college campus is very understanding about LGBTQ+ students. They even have an entire graduation ceremony dedicated to the celebration of those students. It’s called the Lavender Graduation.
This ceremony is very important to me. Being someone who’s family is not supportive of my sexuality, this ceremony allows me the opportunity to celebrate the way I want to. It allows me to be able to celebrate alongside my girlfriend and friends without the added pressure of knowing my parents don’t want to meet my girlfriend. There, I am free to celebrate as I wish. Not only will I be attending as a graduate, but also as an award recipient. Along with celebrating LGBTQ+ students, the Lavender Celebration also gives out awards to outstanding student and faculty who have made an impact on the LGBTQ+ community at this university. I will be receiving the Unsung Hero award for my volunteer work with this blog! It warms my heart so much that just by me telling my stories and experiences through this platform can resonate with other people in my position and in my community. When I first started this blog, I did not expect much out of it except the couple of RSSW credits I would earn by volunteering. But now I see the impact this blog has had on people. I am very honored to receive this award, and to walk my truth across the lavender stage.
Graduating can be seriously scary. What’s coming up next? I have absolutely no idea. It’s very nerve wracking to have to take a leap without knowing where you will land. I’ve thought long and hard about what next steps to take. Should I go home and work, find a place in Albany or elsewhere, go abroad and teach, or try to go to graduate school? There are so many options that sometimes it feels like you have none. It’s also intimidating to not have anything guaranteed by the time you graduate. I know whatever path I take, I know I am prepared to make the decision best suited for me.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: no one really knows what comes next. Some people have things planned out, but a lot of us are just kind of waiting it out. No one really has it completely figured out. Most graduates are taking life as it comes to them. My advice to anyone graduating who isn’t completely sure what’s next: take it a day at a time. Be open to trying anything. Expand your horizons, and trust the process. Everything will fall into place.
And to my Alma Mater, UAlbany. Thank you. Thank you for the craziness that has been these past four years. For all the new experiences you allowed me to have. For all irreplaceable friendships and relationships you’ve created. Thank you for allowing me to get to know myself. For pushing me to be the greatest person I can be. Thank you UAlbany for giving me a voice when I didn’t know I had one. For giving me a chance to lead, and to expand my mind to lengths I never knew I could. Thank you especially for the hard times, because without them I don’t know if I would be half the person I am today.
You have been the perfect home away from home. I will always be proud to be a Great Dane.
Congratulations Fran! We appreciate every contribution that you ave made to Project MyStory and to UAlbany. This will always be your home.