Ekaterina Shaleva: Being ready

Guest Columnist
Thursday, May 26, 2016
This article is part of the series Commencement Magazine 2016

The summer after my junior year was filled with ambivalence. On one hand, I could not wait to live off campus with my friends and see everyone again. On the other hand, I knew that every day closer to the start of the academic year meant a day closer to graduation and the Great Unknown. I was interning  in Tunis when my anxiety slowly started to dissipate.

You see, that day I was meeting my brother’s friend from college, who had recently moved to Tunis after graduating from the University of Essex in the United Kingdom. She had brought along a few Palestinian friends she had met in Tunis. It was great learning more about their unique backgrounds and experiences. One of them had graduated from college two years ago.

Naturally, the question of where I go to school came up. “I go to college in the U.S.,” I said. She asked where. “In Providence,” I said, thinking the name “Brown” would not elicit recognition in this tiny but pleasant Tunisian cafe on a warm summer night in the midst of Ramadan.

“Which one?” she prompted, seemingly intrigued by the name of the city. “Brown,” I said. “Oh, really.” She looked at me amusedly. “I graduated from Brown in 2012.”

Well, that was the last answer I had expected. I had known that Brown graduates were spread all over the world, but until that moment, it had been more of an abstract thought in the back of my mind, a statistic in a promotional pamphlet. This was the first time that I had met a Brown alum in a country neither of us originally hailed from.

After that initial shock (I might have scared her just a little with my level of enthusiasm), we proceeded to ask each other all the questions you might hear at freshman orientation: What did you study? Where did you live? Who was your favorite professor?

There is something incredibly simple yet magical about bonding with complete strangers over people and places. I had finally experienced first-hand the extent of the Brown network.

This was the moment I knew graduating from Brown is not the end but just the beginning. You simply do not graduate alone. Instead, you join the thousands of other Brown alums who have walked the same streets, talked to the same faculty members and staff members and asked the same anxiety-inducing questions about what lies ahead.

My twin sister — who goes to Brown, too — told me recently that after graduation she will have to completely change her Twitter bio: She will no longer be a modern culture and media concentrator, she will no longer be a Writing Fellow and she will no longer be a part of Brown Motion Pictures. Yet while we will no longer be able to answer the question “What do you do?” with the simple but filled-with-pride answer “I go to Brown,” we will always remain a part of the University’s legacy, a part of its memory, a part of its success. All of the ‘titles’ we have accumulated throughout our four years at Brown will not be lost. They will serve as pointers of all we have accomplished at Brown and as previews of what awaits us beyond the Van Wickle Gates.

After my summer in Tunis, I was ready for senior year. What is more, I was finally excited to face the Great Unknown.