Rebecca Caraway is a journalism graduating senior and the Mustang News opinion editor. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.

I often think about my junior year of high school self. How I cried at summer camp in front of my friends because I honestly thought I had no future. I don’t remember what provoked such a dramatic outburst, but it was something I truly believed. If you had asked me then where I saw myself in five years, I wouldn’t know what to tell you. 

Neither of my parents graduated college, going to college wasn’t a given like it was for my friends. My family never encouraged me to go to college, they wanted me to work hard in whatever I did but they never once told me I should go to college. If I brought it up, I was told I needed to do community college first.

So I did.

At the end of high school, I knew the only way to grow, to make something of myself, was to leave home. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get through school if I stayed home. I wouldn’t be able to figure out what I wanted. Thanks to my very kind and generous aunt and uncle, I moved away from my hometown to attend a random community college in a town I knew nothing about 217.8 miles away from home.

Most of my time at community college was spent on zoom thanks to the pandemic yet the experience had a big impact on me. It was the first time in my life that I felt I could do it, I could get through school, I could be successful in what I wanted, I could have a life.  

Thanks to those two years and the solitude of the pandemic, I had the time and safety to figure things out. Who I am, what I wanted, and where I would transfer to. It wasn’t long until I got my long-awaited Cal Poly acceptance email. 

The challenges didn’t stop when I got here. They got bigger and more complicated. My first year here was equally fun and exhausting. Friend groups came and went, I struggled to find my place in my department, I faced my first career rejection. 

 By the end of winter quarter of my junior year I was crying on a bench behind Kennedy library. If you know me, you know I don’t cry, especially not in public, but the year had worn down on me. 

There’s not a singular magical moment where everything in my life got better. It happened slowly, day by day. Just like in high school and community college. 

This year had plenty of challenges of its own. I was balancing three jobs, full course loads, a five-month-long poly plague, losing family members, all the while with a ticking time bomb in the background counting down to an unknown abyss of change. 

But again, I got through it. Through it all, I was supported by the staff, faculty, and peers in my department. As well as my family and friends who witnessed every “bench crying” moment and every “pop the champagne” moment. The community of people in my life always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. 

The professors in my department welcomed me as a transfer student, they recognized that the path wasn’t easy but they encouraged me to keep growing. They pushed me to be better because they knew I could do it. Thanks to them, I’m more excited about my career than ever. I know it won’t be easy, but I know I can do it.

To my fellow transfer students, take a deep breath. We made it. At times It seemed impossible, so soak in every moment of celebration. Know that the challenges we faced here have only better prepared us for what we face next. 

To all those who helped guide our Cal Poly journey, thank you. Whether you’re a family member, a friend, a boss, or a professor; you helped to get us here. Your encouragement, patience, and belief in us made today possible. Celebrate, it is as much your day as it is ours. 

Congratulations class of 2023, now let’s go explore the abyss.