Results tagged “Graduation” from Hawk Talk - Christian



Abbey Denaro's Commencement Speech at UML's 2009 Graduation. 


Our journey through college is over.  Those four long years of writing papers, cramping our hands during long exams, and endless nights of studying is a distant thought.  We are here looking back at the memories, both good and bad, and how much we all changed.  Sometimes, we think that a "change" can be a bad thing.  A bad "change" throws us off to a different path that we are not ready for or something that we just cannot adapt to and further better ourselves.  Fortunately, this type of change doesn't match the one we all have undergone at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.  We all have changed in a way that our dreams are a reality and our future becomes brighter like the sun illuminating the clear blue sky or like the moon shining among the twinkling stars of the velvet night. 

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Abbey Denaro, who is one of the most amazing people I have ever met, gave everyone at graduation the perfect metaphor for our journey through college and life; our journey is like the Merrimack River, which cuts through the heart of UMass Lowell.

Here is part of her speech that explains the metaphor:

"In reflecting upon my years at UMass Lowell, I realize that the Merrimack River is a principle symbol and life-force of the University. It is deep, wide, and clear; it is powerful, enduring, and brilliant. But further down the river you can see the strong rapids with trees and rocks in its way, interfering with its path. The Merrimack continues on this journey, from calm and unobstructed to occluded and strained, until it reaches its final destination into the open and free Atlantic.

 

We have all been making our way through that river our whole lives, and now is the time that we get to go full steam ahead to the open expanse of the sea. There is no doubt that there will be rough waters along the way, but they are there to strengthen us, just as the waterfalls strengthen the Merrimackís power and beauty. UMass Lowell has provided us with the skills to create our own unique means to successfully navigate to the ocean of opportunity... If we all use the skills that we have been developing here at UMass Lowell, and if we continue to be motivated in the manner that got us here today, then no obstacle will ever block of prevent the journey of our future.  We, as graduates of UMass Lowell, are forever bound to the Merrimack River..."

And you can't write anything better than that... Abbey wrote/spoke it beautifully.  The river is very relatable to our journey through college and life.  We all experienced its turbulent obstacles when the flowing water hits the rocky section of the river, and the calmness and beauty of success when the river passes along.  Our life can be chaotic, unpredictable, and fearful, but with our newly learned knowledge and skills that was passed on through generations of Riverhawks, we become the navigators and forgers of the future.  We can direct ourselves over and through these obstacles to reach our goals and dreams of success and happiness.

So here it begins.  My journey through life continues.  I was once a naive child who held his wooden ship on his hand and dared to sail it on the mighty river.  Now, I'm happy to say that I finally know how to navigate "to the ocean of opportunity." I'm the captain of the ship fighting the currents of that same river.

Let me sail away with the Class of 2009... we're heading for the ocean...

- Christian
  UML '09

It was a bright, sunny Saturday morning.  The sky was blue, the air was warm, and the birds were chirping like there was something big about to happen.  The garage was a bit empty with a dozen cars littered here and there.  Nearby a stocky police officer stood at the corner of an intersection, directing cars of lost souls looking for a place to park...

... And there I stood at the East Campus garage alone, waiting for my good Exercise Physiology buddy to arrive.   I was armed and dangerous with my academic attire (my "Harry Potter" gown, the cap and tassle, my cords and stole), my cell phone, and my camera.  Here and there, I saw people who I haven't seen in years walking towards the shuttle area.  I could tell from their smiles, chit-chat with their parents and friends, and their proudly worn cap and gown that they were extremely excited.  I looked around East Campus and I told myself, "Dang, I'm probably never going to step foot on East ever again."  At that point, all the memories of Exercise Physiology II Labs, workout sessions with my friends, basketball, and a pool tournament filled my head.

 

Finally, my friend arrived, and we walked towards the shuttle area.  In the shuttle, we both caught ourselves saying the infamous group of words that seems to come out of our mouths a-billzion times:  "I can't believe we did it.  How come it doesn't feel like the end yet?  Dang, it feels like we have another semester left!"  Oh, at that point I got sick of those words (even if I knew I might splat it out of my mouth days after graduation). Well what can we do?  We're done.  Our four years is finally over.  We have to believe it.  In my head, I said, "Dang, I'm going to cross that stage and this major chapter of my life is over."

We arrived at the Tsongas Arena to a crowd of black-bodied people who look just like us... the caps, the gowns, the cords, the stoles, and the smiles.  We definitely felt the excitement suffocating the air around us and I can tell you that it was a great thing.  My friend and I walked towards two gigantic tents filled with graduates.  Fortunately, the great UML staff organized the tent into "schools" so it easily found those familar faces of the Exercise Physiology program.  From that point on, we went on a photo hunt.  Everyone tried their best to get a photo of each other, while trying to sustain a conversation.  That wasn't too hard (ha).

Here are a few pictures:

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Walking into the Tsongas arena was probably the second (or third) best thing of the day.  When we all poked our heads out of the tunnel and into the open, all we could see was a sea of proud families and friends.  Honestly, it was the first time I saw the Arena completely filled to max capacity.   We all had that warm feeling inside when we saw our loved ones in the crowd.  All I could think at that point is my parents and siblings.  Without them, I wouldn't be walking across the stage...  They made sacrifices to help me succeed in college and I love them for that and many other things.

After getting everyone (2,000 graduates) in the Arena, the Commencement Exercises begun.  The Sheriff of Middlesex County gave a loud, well presented opening to our graduation.  Heck, I can't even explain in words on how he opened the event.  I guess you had to be there to understand (Ha).  Out of all the speeches I heard, Abbey Denaro, my good friend and a fellow Exercise Physiology student had the best speech.  It is such a great speech that I plan on dedicating a future blog post on it (STAY TUNED).  I actually recorded the speech and I will post it on that blog also.  

Obviously, our commencement speaker, Harold Ford, Jr. who is the Chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council and a former Tennessee Congressman also had a great speech!  Before he went on stage, we all saw him writing notes.  We were all amazed at his ability take in what other speakers have said and sneak it into his speech.  He mention parts of Abbey's speech many times.  You can watch it here:  Ford Commencement Speech

Then it was finally time.  After 4 years of waiting, our time finally came: Walk the stage to a new chapter.  Little by little (when I say little, I say a group of hundred or more) students lined up to cross the stage to receive their degree holder.  My EP buddies and I waited (a bit inpatiently) for our chance to walk the stage.  It got to a point that some of us had the idea to sneak into the earlier lines... but we were too good and nice to do that!!  I think it was a good 45 minutes wait before we had our shot to line up to "cross."  Waiting in line, I could see the smiles on my family's faces.  I knew they were proud of me of my accomplishments of UML. 
 

A few minutes before my turn to walk, my best friends from the major crossed the stage.  I was so happy for them.  At that point, I thought about our hard study sessions for classes, our times in the commuter room and at Weed Hall, playing basketball at the Rec Center, and eating out.  Before I got into a deep thought, it was my turn to walk.  I gave my name card to the name caller, turned and walked.  To tell you the truth, I was a bit nervous of falling than the namer caller not pronouncing my name correctly!   I walked in a fast pace across the stage, gently received my degree holder from one of the deans, shook his hand, walked to the other end to shake Chancellor Meehan's hand, and stepped off the stage.  It was probably a ten second thing, but it felt like a lifetime.  It was like a slow motion 4 mile walk across stage.  In my head, I was definitely taking in everything.  My four years was over after walking off the stage.  When I got back to my seat, I was greeted with hugs and handshakes.  Oh, I can't explain the feeling of being done and graduating.  Excited and happy are EXTREMELY weak words for that feeling.  

After waiting for 1,000 more people to graduate, the commencement was over.  I was very surprised that only a handful of caps were thrown in the air.  I heard from many people that we weren't allowed to throw our caps in the air... it didn't stop the few of us who did. 

I will never forget that day in my life.  It was the day when a journey ends and another one begins.  It was the day when my Exercise Physiology buddies were together in a group for one last time.  I can tell you that I'm going to miss my buddies... 

I'm going to leave you, the reader, a few more pictures of that day...

- Christian EP '09

 

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 ... and that's what we did. 

Stop.  Think.  Realize... 

This overwhelming feeling is surreal.  It's like a dream.  Are we really... no, we're not...  It feels like there is another semester left, but there's nothing left for us to do.  We finished our papers,  studied up storms, and passed our exams since day one.  It seems like we were in a never ending cycle of semesters:  Fall and Spring, Fall and Spring... Now it seems like the cycle just ends like how a chapter ends:  ending a part of the story with a major cliffhanger.  We completed our chapter and now we are left with a cliffhanger.  What's next?  ... Wait, are we really... We are standing here with our knowledge in our hands, and the real world is on our door steps.  All I can say is, "Wow... I can't believe we're graduating..." 

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Caption:  My exercise physiology buddies and I at the Senior Brunch at Cumnock Hall.


... How can I explain it?  It just doesn't seem real at all.  We all worked so hard to get to this point in our careers at UMass-Lowell, and it seems like the party is over.  No more late night cram sessions, no more typing out papers on Microsoft Word, and no more poster presentations in front of a huge lecture hall.  I remember, when I was a young, insecure freshman, I told myself that college is going to be a wild ride; there will be good times and there will be bad times that's worth fighting through.  I told myself that one day after the storm settles, I will be crossing the stage to shake hands with the Chancellor and to receive my Bachelor's Degree in Exercise Physiology.  That thought was just a blur in my head and something that was too far to reach.

Now that wild ride called college is finally coming to a close.  That naive thought I had when I was a freshmen is now 19 days away.  In 19 days, my Exercise Physiology class and I will be crossing the stage to receive our degrees and walk out as an alumni of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.  Wow, it just feels like a dream to me... pinch me please, am I dreaming?  I worked so hard the past four years and it's finally here.  My friends and I had a conversation about this today during our Exercise Physiology/Physical Therapy luncheon.  They can't believe it themselves, even those who are attending another 3 years in the Doctor in Physical Therapy (DPT) program.  My friend said that it is a major chapter in life, where we transform from "little, naive freshmen to academically seasoned seniors on our way out."

So be it, let this surreal feeling continue.  I took my one second to stop, think of what I have done in my 4 years, and realize that I finally made it.

At the end I can say that, "Our epic chapter at UML will end... so another saga will be written."

- Christian

35 days until graduation.
18 days until my last day of classes.
5 days left of the Exercise Physiology Practicum.
... And the work just piles on.

I can almost taste the sweet victory on May 30th, my graduation day, but it just seems too far to reach for now.  I still have tons of projects/presentations/papers to do before I can finally exhale.  I can definitely tell you that the sudden burst of summer weather is not helping my cause!  My house is pretty warm and it's making me very lazy and sleepy, which is a major stinker.  I seriously have to push myself through the "spring fever" if I want to get things done on time. 

There's only one thing that's keeping me going: BASEBALL!!!!

I bet that you rolled your eyes when you saw that word, ha!  The baseball team I coach has their first scrimmage game tomorrow and I'm siked.  My team is very young, which might be a fun challenge for the coaching staff.  The challenge is actually motivating me outside the baseball field. I guess the whole trying to figure out what kind of team I have, trying to find the strengths and weaknesses of the team, and my new role as "the manager" has helped me in many ways.  It's good to think that these kids are looking up to me to help them become baseball players.  I guess that itself gave me a warm feeling inside that I can't really explain.  :-)

- Coach Christian

Forget what I said for my last blog about being screwed unhappy after graduation.

Okay, maybe you still can say "I'm screwed" job-wise, but my journey to gain more knowledge?  That journey will continue for one more year at the University of Massachusetts - Lowell.  So, my final lap around campus just has to wait... Sweet, huh? 

So what am I going to take after getting my Bachelor's Degree in Exercise Physiology? 

After remembering a particular suggestion from my professor to get a nutrition certificate in addition to a certification in Strength and Conditioning (CSCS) and an U.S. Olympics Weightlifting Certification (no idea what the abbreviations are) all on top of my EP degree, I decided to research for schools to get such a certification.  And guess what?  UMass-Lowell saves the day once again!  UML is offering a 4-course, 1 or 2 year program for nutrition certification.  Instead of going to a different campus (and try to adapt to a new and strange environment and routine) I can just stay at UML as a commuter and enroll to get a "Graduate Certificate in Nutritional Science." 

After I read the description of the certificate program and saw the words "designed for the health professional, such as a medical technologist, clinical lab scientist, biologist, nurse, physician, physical therapist, exercise physiologist, athletic trainer and personal trainer" (and yes I do have selective reading)  all the stress of post-graduation just went away.  Oddly enough it just disappeared like that.  Sure, job-wise (as mentioned) I'm still stressed about that, but it feels like I finally got redirected to a better path.  All the uncertainty of what I want to do after graduation cleared up. 

Honestly, I'm pretty excited that I'm going back to UML next year.  UML became another home for me, since I've been there for a good 4 years.  Why should I start a new life at a different school if I can continue what I have at a place I pretty much like?  Besides, I finally got the hang of things this year and finally connected with the UML community.  I want to continue that "grasp" (even if it seems like Senioritis is killing me).

Also, my buddies are taking it with me too!!!! So nothing is going to change!  Hey, I'll take the parking problems (and yes... the $1500 fee raise) any day if my commuter buddies are part of the ride!!!!!

Great stuff!

Christian 


I had a conversation with my best friend from UMass-Lowell.  We were at a restaurant having something to drink after a long hard day of classes and clinicals.  As we sat there enjoying our drinks and watching Tiger Woods' return to golf, a thought came into our minds:  will we ever get a job after graduation?  My buddy and I were talking about what our degree offers us and how much we're going to make.  So far, from what I heard from current Exercise Physiologists, personal trainers, and others, "the money isn't that great."  Great.  That's great to know.  So what does that mean for us?  If the money isn't that good from our jobs, what are we going to do during this economic crisis?

My buddy and I have decided, like a few of us EPs, to take a year off and find options other than physical therapy that appeals to us.  Some of us found options, such as health management and nursing, but some of us are stuck with the same options that were told to us:  exercise physiologists, personal trainer, strength and conditioning speciailists, or just head to physical therapy school.  Right now I'm stuck at a lull.  I really don't know what I want to do after graduation (that adheres to the current economy).  My plan earlier was to head to physical therapy school... but for some apparent reason my interest towards physical therapy lessen as the years passed.  I tried so hard to force myself to like it because the money is good, but I finally realized that as of now, I'm not ready to head to that direction.  My experiences in the field of physical therapy was not memorable or desired from what I first expected.  I guess that's very unfortunate for me because I've always had that in my radar. But like an enemy bogey flying away from a military base, the idea is just flying away from the center of my radar.

So I don't really know if I'm (sorry for my language) screwed or not.  I just wish I was more motivated to look at graduate schools so I can stay in school (and ultimately keep my loan payments off).  I'm actually regretting not heading back to school next fall.  I just have a feeling that I'm just going to fall in a hole and I won't be able to motivate myself to go back.

Ahhhhhh... I really don't know.  That's my number one concern as a senior - what I want to do after graduation, if I will survive as a "newbie" in this faltering economy, and if I will be happy...

I'm praying.  Praying really hard for an answer.

- Christian 

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