Graduation, seven years in the making

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Paulina Astrid Spencer, Guest Contributor

Graduating during a pandemic is something I never imagined would happen to me. But here we are, one year and a half into a pandemic that shook the entire world, achieving a goal I didn’t always believe I could achieve.

It somehow feels like a year was stolen from me, and I know I am not alone in this, but this pandemic has taught me much about perseverance, personal trust and growth.

I can’t help but feel nostalgic as I walk the quiet UTEP hallways and empty Union building, but I will always carry the memories of college with me.

It has taken me seven years to get my bachelor’s degree and at several points in my life I felt like giving up, but I am glad I stuck with it because there is nothing that satisfies me more than making myself proud.

People often say college radicalizes you and I would agree to an extent. During my time at UTEP I found my identity, voice and ambition. Walking into my first Chicano Studies class and feeling right at home is the most valuable lesson I learned. Being proud and knowledgeable about your identity is empowering.

I will always remember getting lost on Rim Road on my way to the business building on my first day of class. I will always fondly remember meeting my first group of friends in a class none of us really wanted to take but making the most of it. Playing UNO at the second floor of the Union instead of studying for midterm exams. Ed and Naomi, I will miss “studying” at the Tea Spout with you guys.

But the memories I will hold closest to me are the ones I made at The Prospector. If you know, you know. There isn’t a greater bond than the bond you create with your journo friends. From covering political events, to watching movies in the office, to walking to Whataburger after class, to editing and a billion other things, I will miss my Prospy pals. I am so proud of all of you, and I know we will do great things.

I want to thank Tracy and Vero for letting me grow and always making the Prospy office feel, at times, more comfortable than my own home.

To Vicky and Glenda, thank you for making my college experience so fun. From shooting photos downtown, to attending Halloween parties to blasting Bad Bunny on Transmountain, every moment spent with you was always the best. I know you will both do amazing things, because you are so talented. I want to thank my parents for the constant support throughout my life.

Mamá, gracias por estar siempre a mi lado ayudándome, escuchándome y apoyándome. Todo lo que tengo te lo debo a ti, y este logro es tu logro también.

I also want to thank the incredible professors and mentors in the communication department. Maria de Los Angeles Flores, Ph.D., for believing in me and trusting me to help her with research. Thanks to you I learned how to stand my ground and be a “Latina ching*na.”

I also want to thank Professor Kate Gannon for always pushing me to be better. You taught me perhaps the most valuable lesson I have ever learned, to let go. We are often taught to keep going and do more, but Gannon taught me to focus on the things that really matter and let go of things that don’t.

For anyone who is struggling with the societal pressure of being “too old” to pursue a degree, or you feel like a failure because you are a certain age and haven’t graduated, I say this, keep pushing, you will get there eventually. I can’t wait to see what is next for me.

Paulina Spencer may be reached at [email protected]@paulinaaspencer on Twitter.