Sometimes it’s different, different then what you could imagine; different from what people say it’s going to be like.
I could hardly sleep the night before graduation. It was hot and I was upstairs sharing my room with my mother, who was sleeping next to me. I laid awake thinking about the next day. The day had been so long and I was exhausted. During the evening I was being at a reception for co-authoring “The Fairy Shrimp Chronicles.” The rest of the night was spent at Cap and Town. My parents had never seen Merced more alive and it felt good to know that the city was so excited for our class.
I slowly closed my eyes and finally fell asleep. My alarm went off at 7am. We needed to be on campus no later than 10am. I planned to leave at 8:20 to arrive on campus early. My mother ran around telling me it was too early, but I so nervous. All week there were rumors of parking blockades, id checks, and metal detectors, I was in no mood to be late or in line. We were out the door on time. My family was all dressed up. They had all received the memos about wearing comfortable clothing but today was about looking good and nothing was going to stop us.
On the way to campus my mother was telling me again about how early we were and that I was not necessary. Just as she spoke a large via bus crossed in front of our car on M and Bellevue, as the large bus turned to the direction that we were heading we could see the amount of people on the bus, it was packed. My mother didn’t say anything else and drove a little faster.
For all the hype about the First Lady’s arrive a simple point to our parking pass let us into campus. At 9am the seating was open for people to claim their seats. The line was from the gym to the first dorms, Tulare Hall at the front of the campus. I separated from my parents and decided to wait in the air conditioned lantern. I text messaged everyone about the situation on campus. Walking up scholars lane people shouted congratulations. Reaching the top I could see the rows of metal detectors, and the final set up for the commencement ceremony. It was so large I couldn’t image all those seats filled. My favorite part was the blue and gold flags lining the side, it really gave it a concert/amphitheater feeling. As I looked out I was also little angry. This amphitheater was the planned one for the class gift of 2009, the one the school thought we could not fundraise enough money for. Apparently, they could. I made it to the lantern and gathered with some of my friends. Just sitting felt good. My mom came up to buy a hat, at 10:30am she bought the last hat at the Bobcat Bookstore.
A little before 11am I headed over for the graduate’s robing and registration area. We were given cards to right our names and addresses for our professional photos. We also had to write our names down phonetically. We were allowed to sit where ever we wanted within our school because we would hand them this paper and they would simple read our names off, Reh-naw-da San-till-yan. The rumor was that our lunch was going to be from Bishops on the Square, this was very much untrue. I had a bite of my “Poor boy” sandwich and a cookie just to insure I would only die from heat, not starvation. We were waiting for a while but it gave us all time to take pictures with our friends. My roommate from freshman year, Celina Chun, had given me a flower leis to wear, she had also bought an all white one to give to Michelle Obama. Secret Service informed her that that was not possible.
I was dreading to take class photos. We had all imagined sitting in rows-bleachers maybe- for hours. Instead, I was thrilled when they asked us to stand in the corner between the bend in the science and engineering building. From the inner bend of the building the photographer-and friend, Roger Wyan, reached from outside of the windows and took pictures of our class. He yelled from a megaphone and our class went wild. And although I know out of all the photographers on our campus, Roger Wyan deserved to be the one taking pictures of Michelle Obama, something about him taking our class picture was very heart warming. He’s someone who really cares about the students and it was very fitting that he took our class picture.
We stood in line hoping we wouldn’t get separated from friends with a card that stated you started the next row. Once they told us it was time some people started chanting, U-C-M, it was going for a little while, I really wished our school had some chant because we would just start cheering and it would have come in handy. The procession started and we headed through the quad. Although people informed us we didn’t have to walk through the “sexual provocative” commencement statue when push came to shove most of the people, I noticed, walked through it. Walking into the south bowl was epic. I was very impressed at the amount of people and I couldn’t stop looking at everything. Also, the jumbo screens had some impressive angles of the procession. I had no idea what was going on. While we were getting close to the section where we were instructed to sit I saw Mrs. Obama on the screen, but I didn’t need to, she was walking towards us heading up to the stage.