Virtual commencement, a legacy of lifetime

March 1, 2021, 9:45 p.m.

Standing in the middle of Campus Drive, after a long day of consecutive orientations, I was overjoyed to see the Marguerite approach me, ready to explore the beautiful and gorgeous campus for the first time. During one of the primary High School Summer College orientation sessions, we were told to use the shuttle when we needed to commute. In Kashmir, bus drivers stopped wherever they saw passengers, and I thought it would be no different on Stanford’s campus. I remember how the bus stopped a couple steps ahead of me as I ran closely behind. I stepped in and the driver smiled at me and said, “Paint this campus in your color, but remember Marguerite only stops at its designated stops.” I nodded and took my seat.

Throughout my 10 weeks of HSSC, I explored every corner of the campus except for Hoover Tower and the Dish. I walked everywhere, with dreamy eyes and unsettling curiosity. In such a short amount of time, I had befriended creative, generous and innovative people from all over the world; I had pulled my first few all-nighters to earn the nine units of credit that were the perfect balance of exciting and challenging; and, through all the fun, exploration and stress I found a home. Stanford, with its beautiful California sun, tall Palm trees and rich history had successfully stolen my heart. When undergraduate admissions’ decisions began to roll in the next year, it was a no-brainer for me — I was going back home to join the Class of 2021.

Even though I had been to campus before, as an international student, I had a lot of learning and adjusting to do. During my freshman year, I struggled with duck syndrome and was utterly confused about my major — but with time, I found a community of friends, mentors and staff members who helped me pay heed to the positive voice inside of me and make informed decisions. By the end of freshman year, I had a newfound understanding of who I wanted to be, what I wanted to study and what I wanted my legacy to be. Every quarter thereafter refined these understandings. I loved every second of being on campus. I enjoyed meeting new people through organizations and making my own rituals with friends. I spent countless nights chugging coffee, sharing stories and celebrating the end of midterms over rounds of Mamma noodles or Maggi. Through these shared experiences and memories, I felt more confident than ever to be unapologetically myself. All of this to say that the past three and a half years have been the most incredible years of my life.

Now that I look back, Stanford was never just the physical campus. Stanford has always been the people around me: those who procrastinated their homework to discuss world events over cups of kahwa, those who introduced me to new ideas, those who amazed me by their empathy, creativity and intellect.

As I continue advancing towards the culmination of my degree this summer, I think back to what I was told by the Marguerite operator during my first summer at Stanford: “Paint this campus in your color.” To me, those words mean looking at the constants in the world and using my creativity to find my unique product of those constants; it means finding ways to celebrate the culmination of my beautiful journey at Stanford in my own way. 

Even though the Class of 2021 hasn’t been on campus for nearly a year, and our senior year has been remote from what any of us envisioned, the differences opened opportunities to set new traditions. The legacy of the Class of 2021 will be how it jumps through the many hurdles this pandemic has thrown at us. I would encourage adopting a practice that binds all graduating Stanford Seniors around the world on June 13, through some form of activity — whether that is planting a tree wherever we are or donating essentials to a community in need. Through a shared activity that brings good to the world, we can all feel connected despite the distance and begin building our unique legacy — legacy that highlights giving back to our communities and the world that we live in for a better and safer tomorrow. This is a legacy I would be honored to share.

Contact The Daily’s The Grind section at thegrind ‘at’

Muskan Shafat is an Opinions columnist at The Stanford Daily. She is a Senior from Kashmir studying Political Science & Analytics, Human Rights and South Asian studies.

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