Reflecting on college experience as a mosaic


By Sydney Wood, buzz Editor

It’s been around a week since commencement and so begins students’ annual flight from campus. 

There’s an absence that occurs after the departure of the graduating class and before the arrival of new freshmen, creating a gap that spans from mid-May through mid-August. Living on campus this summer has shown me how substantial this gap can be. 

I attended a few commencement ceremonies last weekend, and many speeches ran with the same basic idea: “Graduation is only the beginning, the real work starts here.” 

It’s a true statement, and it’s also an overused one.

If I were chosen as a speaker for commencement, I’d talk about beginnings, middles and ends. I’d also talk about mosaics. 

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Beginnings, middles and ends don’t happen in an instant, they are the phases that occur with each transition in someone’s life, whether it be a tangible transition – like turning 10 years old – or personal achievements, like being recruited to an intramural team. 

For me, my beginning at the University started when I joined buzz Magazine — now the buzz section of The Daily Illini — in October 2019. Back then, buzz had its own independent website and published stories in The Daily Illini’s bi-weekly paper publications. I remember feeling so cool interviewing local bands and venues, along with listening to albums before their official release date. Honestly, I still do. 

My middle began sometime last week, after I congratulated my graduating friends as they proudly stood in their gowns and left-facing tassels. For me, my middle happens at the onset of my last year at the University. After a few semesters of remote classes, it feels weird to acknowledge my waning time as a college student. 

I don’t think I’ve reached my ending quite yet. Maybe it’ll occur once I find my first post-college career, but it’s impossible to say with certainty. 

The mosaic finds its true form once the process of ending begins. College is a mosaic, and graduation is merely one moment within the mosaic that is the college experience.

During my time at the University, I’ve made many close friends. A lot of them graduated last week, including my sister. Although it hasn’t even been a whole week since they’ve left campus, I miss them. 

Before this month, I thought of the University as being a physical place — somewhere that I travel to and from. Now, the University is more than a single location — it’s a network of friends whom I’ve met here that keep us connected, even after people graduate. 

On my first-ever day of class at the University, I told myself, “It will be a good day if I meet at least one new person in class today.” Nearly four years later, and it’s safe to say that I’ve more than exceeded that initial goal. 

I’m lucky to have met people who have taught me so much about friendship, hardwork and dedication. To me, the relationships I’ve formed with other students, faculty and staff are some of the shiniest tiles within the mosaic of my college experience. 

Goodbyes are bittersweet, but as I look at the happy moments within the unfinished mosaic of my time at the University, I recognize that sadness is an inevitable aftereffect of the ephemeral college experience. 

My identity as a college student will become increasingly translucent as I complete my last year at the University, but it’s comforting to know that after I graduate, the University will remain a network of the friends I’ve made here, along with a mosaic of our times together.


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