Your commencement is a big deal
Graduation ceremonies are a key milestone in a student’s life. They are a symbol of transition, progression and a stepping stone to the next part of the journey. Graduating is indeed a big deal. I have always been someone who has been a box-checker, not really celebrating wins because I know that my biggest goals have yet to be achieved. However, working towards a degree in biomedical sciences in Orlando, Florida, has truly changed my perspective.
I believe students for a number of reasons find it hard to see their goals realised. This can be because of financial issues, lack of willpower or uncertain life events — all of which I have combated.
For so many of us, financial difficulty is the biggest struggle. My first year of university was paid for completely out of pocket. I applied to several scholarships, but was unsuccessful. Despite this setback, I set out again the next year and received multiple scholarships, releasing the financial burdens from my shoulders and allowing me to focus solely on my degree. I am grateful to all of the scholarship committees that made that possible.
Let’s not even talk about the obstacles of being an international student. There are so many challenges that Bermudian college students have to overcome in addition to academic challenges. Constantly travelling, paying a higher tuition rate than your American classmates, feeling like you have to continuously prove yourself, and dealing with being far away from home is not easy to manage. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
One of the best pieces of advice I was given during my academic journey was to “just try” because so many people do not. Have grit. Have nerve. Know what you want and go and get it. This advice encouraged me to not give up so easily on things, and it served me well through this degree.
Therefore, I am here to say that as an individual who enrolled in school not knowing whether or not I was good enough to pass the classes — or pay for them — I decided to try and try again. I did not give up and walked across the stage on April 26, 2022 with honours and debt-free!
All those sleepless nights, headaches and tears will be worth it when you are finished in the end. Let my journey be a testament that you can do it. Education is the one thing that no one can take from you. And if you are in the Class of 2022, as I and my fellow co-founder Halle Teart are, pop a bottle, act up and know that you and your graduation are big deals — and you should act as such!
• Veronica Swan-DeGraff is a co-founder of Bermuda Youth Connect