Tag Archive for 'Memorable'

The Final Ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro

Mt Kilimanjaro amongst the clouds

This is a piece that I’ve been meaning to put up here for quite some time. In the summer of 2001, I spent a month in Tanzania on a mission project, and, at the end of that time, I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. I was fifteen years old at the time, and it was probably one of the roughest periods of my life for innumerable personal reasons. There were many moments when I didn’t feel like I was ever going to possibly make it up the mountain, but I did.

Now is one of those times where I think it’s good to remind myself both of the difficulty of that final nighttime ascent of the mountain and of the fact that I made it in the end.

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The Year in Review

It’s the final day of 2006, which means it’s time for me to engage in a bit of reflection. I must admit that I haven’t really prepared for this, and it’s tempting to paste a meme, even though I try to avoid doing that here. But here goes my year in review:
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Commencement

Graduation

Now that graduation was ten days ago, it’s really about time for me to say something about it. I’ve got just about all of the photos I have from the weekend uploaded.

The weekend was a complete whirlwind of activity. On Friday night, after my parents and grandparents made it in to town, we went out to dinner at Anatolia Cafe with my advisor, Dr. White. That was a lot of fun. My grandfather could not stop saying how thrilled he was that I’d gotten into Cornell. I think he went into that topic about five times over the course of dinner.

We had rehearsal on Saturday morning, and, in the afternoon, my family and I went to the Honors Awards Ceremony where I received a 2nd place prize in engineering for my poster at the research symposium as well as a departmental award for a student who “shows promise in professional leadership”. That was quite a surprise. The other student who received the prize was a much more obvious choice than I was: he’s been president of the Case student chapter of AIAA and has led the Design, Build, Fly team nearly every year. I, on the other hand, never even joined one of the professional organizations associated with our department. The only excuse I can come up with is that I showed leadership in class and such. Even then, though, I feel like that’s more perceived leadership on the part of other students rather than actual leadership on my part. In any case, I was flattered.

My grandfather, myself, and Prahl

My family had a chance at the rehearsal afterward to meet Dr. Joe Prahl, the head of my department. Prahl is perhaps best described as “a character”. My parents still remember meeting him when I came to visit campus the first time. I think they were a little less freaked out this time around. Maybe.

That evening my family went out with Mark and Jessica’s families at Peking Chinese. As predicted, the puns were rolling. It was another one of those dinners that I honestly didn’t want to come to an end.

As I mentioned the morning of graduation, the day started out rainy. We all got our regalia on and headed down in the rain with umbrellas for the procession. While we were waiting in the line-up, the sky cleared and the sun came out. It turned into a gorgeous day not long before the bagpipes from the law school reached us. For the procession, all of the graduating students (undergrads, graduates, and professional students) start out at their school on campus, fully decked out in ceremonial garb. Different schools fall in together as they make their way in lines across campus. From Adelbert, the platform party, which includes the President, Provost, University Marshall, etc., leads the emeritus faculty and the faculty. These groups, followed by students from the law school, management school, and the school of applied social sciences, processed (also in full regalia) through lines of undergraduates. We had to applaud the entire time they passed, which really does a number on one’s hands. Eventually, we fell into step behind them and all the groups made their way into Veale, parading past rows of parents and family members who were held back by ribbons and volunteers. Having waited four years to participate in one of these procession, I was thrilled and grinning the whole time. Video cameras were strategically placed along the way so that the procession outside could be broadcasted within Veale. All very exciting.

Veale itself was pretty decked out. We made our way through the formalities: the giving of honorary doctorates, the key note speech from Julie Gerberding, and such. Hundert conferred degrees upon each separate batch of students, and we got to cheer a lot. There was a recession where the graduate and professional students left, and soon thereafter the undergraduate diploma ceremony where they actually gave us our degrees began. It was somewhat disappointing that I received my diploma from Dean Savinell rather than from Hundert, but such is life. They also didn’t read my major–it was in the program–but they did note that I graduated magna cum laude, which thrilled my family to no end. I was the only female aerospace engineering graduate, and one of only two aerospace majors to graduate with honors!

They had people stationed at the bottom of the stage’s stairs to catch people in case they tripped. The person waiting on my side happened to be the professor who was my freshman advisor way back when. He’s an accounting professor, so I hadn’t seen him in quite awhile. I had just enough time to tell him that I was glad to see him again and give him a quick hug before dashing back to my seat.

Christian, Me, Jessica, and Mark

After that ceremony–and its haphazard recession–we had a reception in Adelbert, which involved lots and lots of pictures. In fact, most of my Commencement photos are from then. I got to see quite a few people one last time, including Dr. White, Dr. Alexander, Dr. Prahl, Dr. Ritzmann, Chris, Tim, Lisa, Christian, and Michael. Of course, there were also lots of pictures with me with Mark and Jessica and my family. Really, I’m shocked at how many good pictures we got!

The whole weekend was a pretty bizarre experience. We were all quite happy, of course, because we were graduating, but, at the same time, it was terribly depressing because we knew time was running out. My family ended up going back to the Turkish restaurant with Mark’s folks that evening and having our fill of excellent food and company. We got back to the apartment completely stuffed, but nonetheless, we had to pack. I think my family may have been surprised at how quickly I managed to get things packed and ready to stow in the U-Haul they rented. Having done this routine a few times now, it’s getting familiar. They left later, and I got to spend one last night with my suitemates and friends.

I stayed up far, far later than I ought to have, given the early start my family had planned for the next day. But, as I was hanging out with Christian and Brooke and Mark and Jessica for the last time, I couldn’t resist. It was my last night living in a college dorm, and there’s nothing like that atmosphere for making friends and having fun at any hour. I didn’t regret staying up until the wee hours of the morning, even when my cell phone alarm went off the next morning. At that point, I packed the last of my things and stowed them in Mark’s car while he drove me to my parents’ hotel. We both cried.

My family piled into the van and drove off, making it back to North Carolina early in the evening. All of my things got stacked along the walls of the garage, and most of it has remained there. I’ve taken over the guest bedroom and have done a few things to make it my own: putting my own sheets on the bed and hanging my framed degree on the wall, etc. Mark is coming to visit for the weekend and is expected to arrive tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to that. I’ve spoken to Jessica online once or twice. Today she left amusing comments scattered throughout the Commencement gallery. Good times.

All the same, I miss college and my friends and Case. Even though I look at the degree every day, I can’t believe what it says. I’m officially a rocket scientist now.