Brigita Andonova (’24): Commencement Speech

May 22, 2024 Brigita Andonova
Brigita Andonova (’24): Commencement Speech

Brigita Andonova (’24) was the Student Speaker for the 30th Commencement Ceremony. Brigita has not only completed her BA in Business Administration and Economics but has also earned the outstanding achievement award in both disciplines this year. Her contributions extend far beyond the classroom, having served as a student representative to the Economics department and a tutor in Statistics. She has also distinguished herself as a collaborative student leader and peer supporter in AUBG’s co-curricular program in her roles as an AUBG Olympian and Resident Assistant.

The 30th cohort of legacy. That’s who we are now, at this very moment.

Starting from today, we will no longer be students. In just a short while, we will turn the tassels to the right and puff, we are immediately graduates. Young professionals. Aspiring leaders. Some of us will become great researchers, some – great writers, or filmmakers. Some will devote their life to art, others to the stability of numbers. And then maybe family, and kids, and successes, and failures, and joy, disappointment, tears, and fulfillment… Hopefully.

Starting from today, we are always going to be labeled as something. Either be it the boss or the subordinate, the parent or the cool aunt/uncle, the problem solver, the creative mind, the mentor. But right in this moment, we are still in AUBG. The place we got to be nothing but ourselves. No labels or lists to tick off, or boxes to fit into. Just ourselves, whatever that means for each of us. And even if we didn’t know, it was still okay. We got the chance to explore. Within us. Within the community. To find meaning and purpose.

We started on a rough patch as freshmen. The Covid class that did not have a proper high school graduation, or orientation week even. That had to remember if they are a lion or an eagle so that they will be eligible to be present in the classroom. The whole world shut down for almost 2 years. But we still found a light to illuminate our way so that we reach our final destination. And when there was no light around to be found, we became it.

After things got back to the so-called new normal, it still wasn’t easy being sophomores. Socialization did not feel the same. The all-campus picnic was a mixture of polite small talks and social anxiety. At first. But then we looked around. We were on that same lawn where we met each other for the first time. Where we gathered in the evenings during orientation, shared embarrassing stories from high school and pretended they happened to our friends, where we got the police called on us because those very stories echoed through eternity. And apparently through the buildings across the river. Anyways, what I am trying to say is we reconnected. We re-learned how to be with each other, to bounce off ideas, to tell jokes, some old, some brand-new. We carved our new normal and reshaped reality so that it fits us.

Then came junior year and with it the pressure to be more, to take upon more responsibilities, to be proactive and get those great internships or work-and-travel positions. Time became hard to master and it almost felt like we were trapped between the clock arrows. We were at the peak of our academic workload, learning the most advanced topics for an undergraduate in our respective fields. But we succeeded both inside and outside of the classroom. We found our groove and understood the fragile nature of balance. We went to the extremes to find the middle ground that works for us. And then we thrived.

Senior year began with excitement, with a glimpse of hope and a thrill to explore the world outside of our bubble. However, somehow the heartbreak crept behind our backs and sneaked in, reminding us that something is coming to an end. But can something as definite as an end exist in a place that is built upon its community? We are leaving but others are staying behind. Our friends who will retell our stories, our fellow club members that developed though our advice, our professors who inspired our passions, our administration and staff who bonded with us. It seems like nothing is ending after all and heartbreak is just plain old nostalgia for the things that have been.

Going back to my point in the beginning, no matter if we like it or not, the world will inevitably try to force labels upon us. Go ahead, world, make us fit in, put a label on what we are and what we can be. We will simply do what we did through these four marvelous years in AUBG. Redefine the label. Make it sparkle. Make it our own.

There’s this phrase that I like very much – “Greatness from small beginnings.” It often comes to mind when I am thinking about my AUBG journey. But the thing is AUBG didn’t care about our beginnings at all. It just made sure that once we drove through that dusty parking lot, we all had one epic journey. Are you ready to see what the next chapter has in store for us?