On Assignment at Commencement

Elizabeth Nekesa Wanjala wears a graduation cap

The author borrowed a commencement cap for her “working journalist” portrait.

Coming to Kalamazoo College for a year as a visiting international (VI) student from Kenya was something that I really embraced from the beginning. Based on all I had heard about the College from preceding VI’s from my country, I knew my experience at K was going to be a life-changing opportunity. And not only have I gained from the different way of studying here, but I also got a chance to intern with the communications department after spring term ended on June 11.

My first assignment was to attend and write about commencement activities, including the senior awards ceremony, the senior music recital, Baccalaureate, and the actual commencement ceremony on June 14. I was thrilled to see how different students engage in different activities here at K. Senior awards ceremony lasted more than an hour, and many seniors received honors for their achievements. Indeed, Kalamazoo College shapes first-year students into well-behaved, focused, determined, and goal-oriented seniors. The senior recital followed the awards ceremony and featured such a wide variety of performances that I realized that Kalamazoo College has something for everyone–a Capella, opera, piano and guitar; all were extraordinary. I felt that attending K is like being molded into your optimal perfect fit and full potential.

For Baccalaureate that evening I managed to secure a first row seat in Stetson Chapel. I come from a Kenyan university that has none of these activities, and I think the Baccalaureate service is a good way to send seniors off to the world. By the end of the day I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the activities. If my editor restricted me to just one word for what I had experienced, that word would be ‘breath-taking’.

Commencement was scheduled to start on Sunday at 1 p.m. Clouds and sporadic spurts of rain made the day unpromising, but all turned out well. Rain postponed the start to 2:15 p.m. Despite the unfavorable weather I loved being a part of this whole activity. I interviewed seniors, video recording them and taking photos. The rainy weather was nothing close to a stumbling block for me. I had my umbrella ready. I could tell that the seniors I talked with were excited and satisfied to be part of K. The faculty and students processed down the quad from Stetson Chapel. The whole idea of faculty leading students down the quad during commencement was a new observation for me. At my university, with more than 2,000 graduates in a commencement ceremony, such a ritual would be impossible. Recognition of Kalamazoo College alumni during the ceremony proved to me that this college goes an extra mile to keep in touch with its students after they graduate. I am happy and thankful to be associated with Kalamazoo College—an institution that wholly molds an individual to his or her full potential and then goes a little further to keep connected with its alumni.

Text and photo by Elizabeth Nekesa Wanjala, visiting international student at Kalamazoo College, 2014-15