By Alexandra Woolbright
Homecoming brings the community of Mississippi University for Women together, both past and present. Seeing all of the alumni on campus reliving their experiences as a student and meeting with old friends is always a joyous occasion. With all sorts of festivities to celebrate, it is easy to forget that soon May will be here. However, for MUW seniors, Homecoming does not serve as only a celebratory time, but rather, a steady reminder that soon they will be becoming members of The Long Blue Line.
For many seniors, Homecoming has now become a time to embrace the last few memories to be made at MUW and creates questions for the future. Several seniors opened up about how they would miss life at MUW, their dreams for the future and most candidly, their fears about life after the “W.”
Most seniors immediately reflected on how much they would miss their time at MUW and how the experiences gained here have impacted their lives.
For senior theatre major Parker Yarbrough of Columbus, Miss., MUW served as the place he found his calling. Though a native of Columbus, MUW was a completely new and exciting experience of its own, and it led Yarbrough to find his true passion, along with the help of his mentors and friends.
“I started at MUW in nursing and along the way came to the realization that I really wanted to teach theatre instead. MUW helped me find myself and what I wanted to do in life,” he said.
For other students, MUW helped them to establish lifelong friendships with others from all over.
“Over the past four years, I have met and become friends with so many great people. I’ve had the chance to make lifelong friends, the kind that I know I will keep in contact with for years to come. MUW helped me meet some of the best people,” senior exercise science major, Elizabeth Gainey, of Star, Miss., says.
Though Homecoming has reminded many seniors of friendships made and dreams realized, it also seriously prompts them to consider life after graduation and how MUW has prepared them for the future.
For most, the biggest fear is having to become members of the adult world. Instead of going to classes, socializing with friends and focusing on school, now seniors realize they will be working jobs with more expectations. Unlike graduating high school, where college is the next step, this graduation will mean figuring out things alone.
“I’m most afraid of moving off and starting life in the real world with a real job. Plus, I’m going to have to pay my own bills while also trying to repay the financial aid I took out for school. Graduating is going to mean I take on more responsibility than I have before,” said Gainey.
“In high school there’s this safety net because you know college is the next step. Now there’s just a dark abyss you’ve got to be ready to plunge into. There’s no way of knowing if jobs will pan out,” Yarbrough said.
Senior nursing major Hayley Smith of Philadelphia, Miss., agrees that becoming a member of the grown-up world is frightening.
“My greatest fear after graduation is living in the real world. It’s going to be a lot different than waking up and going to class every day. I’ll have adult responsibilities, but I know the transition will be easier because of my time spent at MUW,” she said.
For other seniors, not only does life in the real world scare them, but they are also afraid of the support they will be leaving behind.
For senior public health education major Nick Wright of Eupora, Miss., the loss of the support he’s found at MUW will be his biggest worry.
“My greatest fear is moving on and starting over. I have gotten so used to the support system, that leaving it frightens me,” he said.
In realizing that the adult world is quickly ahead, seniors also begin to question whether or not the information and skills they have learned at MUW will have proved sufficient.
For some students, there is no question that the “W” has given them all the proper tools to become successful.
“I most certainly feel prepared for the future. Because of my instructors I’ve learned not only all the aspects of theatre, but that you can make a career out of it. You can survive, and you can succeed,” Yarbrough said.
Though the education at MUW has certainly been important in preparing students for the future, the skills they’ve developed while being a student are assets some seniors believe will be important.
“MUW has prepared me through school, but having a job has also really taught me a lot. Working and going to class means I really had to develop time management skills. I think that will really help me in the outside world,” Gainey said.
Though Homecoming certainly provokes important thoughts for seniors, the university’s concern is whether or not students will someday return to their old stomping grounds. Alumni spend an entire weekend meeting and networking with students, so as a senior at MUW, it is natural to wonder whether or not the trip to MUW will be made again after graduation.
For some seniors, returning to MUW is a definite because of the relationships formed here.
“I will most definitely visit this great university after I graduate and keep in touch with the people I’ve met here over the past four years. I met some of my best friends. My experiences and time spent at MUW holds a special place in my life’s journey,” said Smith.
“I will most definitely come back because the person I have become was born at MUW. I will keep in contact with most of my ‘W’ family. I’m sure a few will be in my wedding,” Wright agreed.
For other seniors, returning to MUW will serve as a way to give back to the programs that helped them along their undergraduate journey.
“I want to come back to MUW. I’m from Mississippi, and I do want to leave and have my own experiences, but I want to come back. I love the town, and I love MUW. The theatre program has grown so much just in the years I’ve been here, and I want to come back and help it continue to get better and grow more,” Yarbrough said.
Unfortunately, not every student plans to make the trek back to Columbus a definite plan for the future.
“I’m doubtful I will visit much. MUW has been good to me, but it’s time to experience bigger and better things. I will be moving away, so visiting will be hard, but I know I will stay in touch with the people I’ve developed friendships with while here,” Gainey said.
It certainly seems that seniors at MUW have gained experiences and skills that will serve as important tools in the future. Indeed, Homecoming serves as a reminder that soon MUW seniors will also be members of The Long Blue Line.