I am no longer a student at Rollins. I graduated last May, and over the past year I have instead been many different things. I have been an intern, a rower, a daughter, an alumna, a friend, a writer, a sister, a server, a traveler, a bookworm, a photographer, a runner, a woman, a volunteer, an American, a blogger, a teammate and a teacher.
Graduating was unnerving at first. For four years the words “Rollins student” were present in my part of introductions, my answer to the blank “occupation” line, and my reply to the very question of who I am. My classmates and I finished those four years and we set off to find a new answer to these questions. We headed home, went to med school, started internships, traveled the world, were offered jobs, started families, bought houses, conducted research, started businesses, became coaches, joined unions, wrote books and become something more than graduates. It seems we have left our college years behind us and accepted that we are no longer Rollins students.
It is August 2007 in Winter Park. The sun is shining and the Rollins campus smells like palm trees and sunscreen. I file into the line processing into the cool gym and find a seat among the first friends I have made in college — my RCC classmates. The walls and ceiling are glowing with bright blue and gold banners, the professors all wear strange black cloaks, and a podium is set up on a large stage in the front of the gym. As someone approaches the podium, the buzz of talking dies down and the matriculation welcome speech begins. While most of this ceremony involves listening, there are four words that define our role in it. Repeating after the provost, every person from the new class at Rollins repeats the words together, “I am Rollins College. I am Rollins College.”
Now it is 2012 and I am walking to school to teach my class of 20 primary school students. It is 94 degrees, the red dirt from the road has stained my feet, my students speak very little English, there are only three classrooms at the school, an old college t-shirt is my teaching uniform, and I am in Africa.
I walk past the mango stand halfway to school and greet the dark man with a toothy grin behind it who is sitting on a stool. In Kenya, you always greet another person, even if you are just walking by, and each day I exchange numerous pleasantries with the locals as I continue on my way. Today, the man at the mango stand says something that stops me. He looks at my t-shirt, raises his eyebrows, and asks, “You are Rollins?”
It has been almost a year since I have been a Rollins student. But when he asks the question, I stop to look him in the eyes and answer without hesitating, “Yes. Yes, I am Rollins.”
I am 8,234 miles and 314 days away from Rollins and I can still see the blue and yellow-decorated inside of the Alfond Sports Center and hear my classmates repeating our pledge beside me. It is as true today as it was in August 2007. No matter what new identities I embrace as an alumna, that is the one that will remain present under them all.