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To say I am bad with change and endings would be an understatement. I was that kid who cried on the last day of elementary school every year. So you can pretty much imagine how well I’m handling college graduation …

However, there is something that feels different about this point of change in my life. While I’m obviously a bit older and hopefully my coping skills have improved, the biggest difference is the sense of gratitude I feel when I look back at these past four years. Looking forward to the future currently scares the crap out of me, but looking back fills me with a deep happiness and gratefulness that is hard to describe. These past few years certainly have not been easy, but I have so many experiences within them to be thankful for.

I am realizing that we don’t say thank you enough to the people who help us the most. Life moves too fast at this university to ever take a step back and just be grateful for all we have been given. Teachers bombard us with assignments, finals leave us stranded in the library for weeks on end and extracurriculars suck up every ounce of free time we may have left for ourselves.

At a certain point in college, I wound up running on autopilot, just trying to put one foot in front of the other each morning and pretending that everything was great! But a lot of the time it wasn’t great. It was filled with moments in which I felt the weight of everything I had to accomplish come crushing down on my shoulders and moments where I just did not think I could handle the pressure any longer. But there were always people there to help me back up when I began to stumble.

Those people are the ones I am thankful for. They are the friends who ate dinner with me, texted me before a big exam to wish me good luck. They are the ones who left notes in my bathroom and signs on my bedroom door. They are the ones who went for runs with me and listened to my endless venting, letting me talk until I finally felt better. They are the ones who provided me with all the laughter, all the wine, all the snacks, all the movie nights, all the dance parties and all the moments that I will look back at college and remember.

Because ultimately, college wasn’t about getting the grades and the job, but about finding the people who surround you and help you get there, coming out as your best possible self.

To the DP, thank you for allowing me to find my place. I came into Penn thinking I would be the next Rory Gilmore and tried my hand at being a General Assignment Reporter and then a Beat Reporter. I learned that journalism just wasn’t my thing and swiftly moved over to 34th Street where I wrote, edited and worked on Marketing with the most amazingly eclectic people I have ever had the chance to hang with in one room at one time.

Then, I was able to move over to business end and served as Marketing Manager under the guidance of Megan Yan, Katherine Ross and Eric Jacobs. This position was where I truly belonged. I loved the projects I worked on, loved the team I managed and felt inspired by the work I was doing. The love made the long hours, the stressful nights and the hard work all worth it.

Thank you, Megan, for always having chocolate in your office and helping encourage me to be bold and always try, regardless of the outcome. Thank you, Katherine, for legitimately being the shoulder I cried on and the ear that listened to my endless complaining. I will really miss our five minute meetings that turned into hour-long meetings filled with conversations about running, Iron Man and everything in-between. And thank you, Eric, for trusting me with this position and allowing me to spread my wings and see what I could achieve.

To Mom and Dad, I have already sent you a long thank-you note for giving me this amazing opportunity. But as I am learning, there is really no such thing as too many thank yous. This experience would not have been possible without your love and support.

To Penn, thank you for allowing my love for learning to thrive here. For constantly encouraging me, allowing me to study my interest, forcing me to sometimes learn about rocks and giving me opportunities with some of the most brilliant minds out there. I’m pretty sure I will not miss the exams and homework, but I will surely miss feeling engaged by my professors, peers and academic material.

I am really still in disbelief that I am graduating. I don’t quite feel like I am ready for the next stage in my life, but the one thing I can do is look back, be grateful And know that the people who helped get me this far will continue to help me in the years to come. 

ALYSSA BERLIN is a College senior from Great Neck, NY, majoring in communication and minoring in consumer psychology. She is a former beat reporter, 34th Street food and dining editor and Marketing Manager.

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