Why Study Abroad Convinced Me to be Commencement Speaker


A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from the Journalism department. The email encouraged undergraduate seniors to apply to be the Commencement Speaker at UMass Undergraduate Commencement 2013.

My first thought was to save the email because I might want to apply to be the Student Speaker. My second thought was that I might not have the confidence or the gusto to take that leap of faith. But then I realized how far I’ve come since Freshman year. I joined Sigma Phi Epsilon’s Alpha chapter in Massachusetts; I enrolled in numerous Dale Carnegie Training courses, most notably the Dale course and High Impact Presentations; and I elected to study abroad in Italy for my eighth and final semester at UMass.

Each aforementioned endeavor taught me something unique, something different. In SigEp, I gained valuable leadership skills; in Dale Carnegie courses, I began a quest to master human relations; and when I decided to study abroad, I took a leap of faith.

So why not take another?

Why shouldn’t I apply to be the Commencement Speaker at my own graduation. I’ve been saying for months how important it was for me to be back in time for graduation. And so if I’m going to be back, why not make it a memorable experience.

I believe the biggest reason for this sudden desire to deliver the Commencement Speech stems from an inherent desire to be the best possible. I want to prove the naysayers wrong and make my family and friends proud. Last year, I wrote a story on Isaac Himmelman, the 2012 Commencement Speaker, who as a result of my story, landed a production job with the A&E network in Hollywood. When I interviewed him, he allowed me inside his thought process and I saw the intrinsic value of speaking to over 10,000 students, parents, faculty and staff. I saw that it made him a better person and a more confident person. And with my application, I seek to do the same.

I believe that my impending trip to Italy serves as a constant reminder that I can overcome any fear so deeply rooted within me. I believe that I can do this because studying abroad is serving me up the opportunity to conquer my fears and step outside of my comfort zone.

If you asked me four years ago if I would join a fraternity, I’d have said no. If you asked me if I would study abroad, I’d have said no. If you asked me if I would have the confidence to deliver a parting speech to my classmates, I’d have said no.

See the trend here? Just as SigEp’s Excelsior Award challenges chapters to build upon past success. I’ll do the same because as the inscription of the award reads, ‘Ever Onward, Ever Upward,’.

One thought on “Why Study Abroad Convinced Me to be Commencement Speaker

  1. Pingback: Commencement Speaker not in the cards | There's More to Life Than Massachusetts.

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