Left Behind

AU’s Convocation 2017 is well underway. From Thursday, June 8, to Saturday, June 10, AU students are taking the final portion of their AU journey across a stage in Athabasca. They have come from all over Canada and beyond. For most, it is their first time on AU’s campus.

I’ve watched each year’s convocation ceremonies with interest. AU live-streams the action, and many students add their own photos and comments on social media. It’s exciting to watch along as another batch of students reaches their goal and obtains their degree or diploma.

This year, it’s different for me. For almost five years, my own graduation seemed far off in the hazy future. But now I’ve set a firm date: June 2018. My BGS degree isn’t just something endlessly in-progress anymore. There is a plan, a commitment to be finished, a deadline to work toward.

The buzz in advance of this year’s convocation seems bittersweet to me. The excitement of the graduands is palpable. While I’m happy for them, I’m beginning to feel left behind.

I’ve come to know many AU students over the years. Even though I’ve met only a few students in person, I’ve interacted with many on social media and through interviews for the Minds We Meet series in The Voice Magazine. I’ve connected with students by phone, e-mail, and Facebook. I’ve followed their struggles and frustrations and their moments of triumph.

Now they’re leaving me behind. Their AU journey is coming to an end. They’ve submitted the final essay, wrote the final exam, and fulfilled the final requirements for their undergraduate degree. This week, they’re taking that final step by participating in Convocation 2017.

I am so pleased for them. It’s exciting to watch the live-streamed convocation ceremonies and see students I’ve become familiar with finally reach their goal. All that time and effort has come to fruition.

But I feel wistful, too. I’ve still got a year to go, and it’s not going to be an easy one. I’m a bit envious of the class of 2017, who can now move on to the next stage of their life. However, we’ve all started our journeys at different times and have followed varied routes toward our degrees.

Now I can set my sights on Convocation 2018. I can anticipate the excitement of seeing Athabasca University for the first time. I look forward to the pleasure of meeting staff and students who are now represented by little more than e-mail addresses.

I offer my hearty congratulations to AU’s newest graduates! You’re leaving a trail of inspiration for the rest of us to follow. Savour each step across the stage as you claim your parchment. As for us, the class of 2018: we’re right behind you.

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario.

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