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A Landmark of My Educational Journey

Student Life

On Sunday, May 22, 2022, I graduated from Hollins University with a double major in communication studies and theatre. Throughout the spring semester, I had been asked by multiple people what I thought about the approaching landmark. "It feels like a normal semester to me. Get my work done." This was how I felt until the day of graduation itself— the day that marked the conclusion of my undergraduate studies. Since then, I have been trying to figure out a nice way to wrap up my thoughts on my four years of learning, and I chose to write about them.

On the day I left Hollins, I headed to the airport in an Uber. The driver seemed to be a fan of the university and had attended quite a few theater productions held by faculty members both there and downtown. He added that one of his previous passengers had started a career as a carpenter with skills he learned in jail. "It's about what you do with your life," he had said.

What people do with their lives is a form of choice. I believe in the idea of choice, meaning that people make decisions and follow them up with actions. That is one of the best ways to summarize my experience so far. I chose to pursue higher education, I chose to challenge myself, and I chose to test my potential in every way I could. Sometimes, the options were not ready for me, so I had to create these choices for myself. Making a choice is not as easy as it sounds; it comes with a variety of costs that need to be taken into consideration. To achieve my goal, all my effort was needed.

Hollins University Commencement 2022

"Getting my work done" was the most common thing I said when people asked me how I was doing. I noticed that, as I got older, I rarely used words of emotion to describe my state of mind and my feelings. Rather, I chose to say more neutral, fact-oriented things.

When I reflect on it, I realize my semesters at school were filled with work, both academically and professionally. It never stopped. Especially during my last semester at Hollins, there were seemingly countless ongoing tasks for me to begin and follow up on. I had been using a notepad as my to-do list to remind myself of what I needed to start working on, what I needed to continue, and what I needed to expect. It was always satisfying to cross out completed items and tear down the current page for a new one. Again, the list never stopped, nor did the writing, crossing, and tearing, throughout my semesters.

Even though I was running a marathon with my tasks, I was able to check in with myself and come up with some concise and reflective titles to summarize my undergraduate years.

"My first year was an adaptation. My second year was a discovery. My third year was concentration. My fourth year was reflection."

My first year marked the transition from a high school to college student at Hollins, adapting to the campus culture and the expectations of college professors. My second year was transformative. I became more familiar with the school and the people around me. I became brave enough to step outside my comfort zone, discover what I genuinely enjoyed, speak in front of a group of people, perform onstage, and multitask all semester long. My third year was a time when I concentrated on my interests and used them to guide my class projects. It was also when I realized I loved working at a desk, where my computer, paper, and pens were handy. Moving into my senior year, I became more specific about the location and the way I study. It was also the year that I worked on two of my theses— one honors thesis in communication studies and the other in theatre. I see it as the year when I reflected on what I was passionate about and on the way I enjoyed working on assignments. More importantly, it was the year I got to reflect on myself, my growth, and my feelings. I learned that my accomplishments would not be the same without my learning-oriented focus. I enjoyed having things to work on, and I am glad I chose to follow through with my actions.

Rosie Wong at Hollins University 2022 Commencement

Besides the work skills I learned, the two theses I completed, and the wonderful experiences from class to class, I am glad to have had the opportunity to work closely with my professors. Thank you for your patience and your genuine care and support for students. Thank you for always welcoming us during your office hours. Thank you for asking previous students for advice to improve your syllabus. Thank you for sharing a more personal side of yourselves to humanize the class. I'd like to use the Chinese idiom “亦 (yì) 师 (shī) 亦 (yì) 友 (yǒu)” to describe the relationship between me and my professors, meaning that I see them as both knowledgeable teachers whom I can learn from and genuine friends whom I can trust.

One of my proudest projects was the production and release of my podcast episode, From Vision to Practice: A Conversation with Wendy-Marie. As a part of my thesis, it was conceived, planned, produced, edited, and finally published throughout the last seven months of my senior year. This production marks my college career working with Hollins faculty and staff members to amplify their voices. It focuses on internal communication and leadership in the university's theatre department. The idea for it stemmed from my gratitude to the faculty members who made my and my fellow students' higher education possible and meaningful. The first episode is available on the HU Sound channel, designed to bring together the voices of the staff and student body. It is part of my gift to Hollins, and I hope it continues to showcase the community's stories. You can listen to the full episode here.

I also appreciate the staff members who were endlessly supportive of the students' growth and success. From one office to another, I was able to greet them almost every day. Thank you for everything that you do for the students and the community. Thank you for being a part of my journey and a part of Hollins. Thank you for being here for us, because you and your work are an adhesive that brings us all together.

I appreciate my friends and family for supporting me throughout my journey. I appreciate my parents for trusting me to pursue higher education and make a difference. I cherish the families I got to know throughout my time at Hollins, who encouraged and cared for me. I value the friends with whom I shared countless days and nights studying, chatting, rehearsing, presenting, and performing. I also appreciate the alumni who are committed to keeping the Hollins tradition going and strengthening our connection. I would not be where I am without your company. You are my family, and I hope you know I mean it.

In the Chinese culture I grew up in, it is not common to express 我 (wǒ) 爱 (ài) 你 (nǐ), meaning "I love you," in day-to-day interactions. I believe, however, that the fact that we do not say it as often does not mean we do not feel it. Though I still find this expression hard to verbalize, my heart is filled with gratitude, admiration, and love. Thanks to my conversations with the university's 13th President, Mary Dana Hinton, which always ended with her telling me, "I love you," I am becoming more comfortable with expressing love. From a communication studies perspective, language is powerful, and the power to deliver love through words can be transformative.

I love you, Hollins University. I love you, to those who have been a valuable part of my educational journey. I am also extending my gratitude to all those in the educational field: your work is meaningful beyond words and you are appreciated.

Hollins University President Hinton and Rosie Wong '22

May 22 is a landmark of my educational journey. It is a celebration of everything I achieved at Hollins as an undergraduate student. It is also a celebration of a new chapter in my life— one in which I will write and continue to gain experience in the fields I love.

For my readers, this is an article that will allow me to wrap up my college experience and to appreciate the people who have been a part of my journey, including educators, fellow students, friends, and family. I hope it is helpful for those who see higher education as an achievement and a source of growth, and for families and educators who need to be reminded that their effort and support are meaningful and appreciated.

Chin Wai (Rosie) Wong
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Chin Wai (Rosie) Wong is a senior at Hollins University who is earning a Bachelor's degree in both Communication Studies and Theatre. She is passionate about pop culture and enjoys art making. She is excited to join The Teen Magazine team this year.