June 25, 2012 5 years ago, I was again in front of a crowd of parents and students, delivering a graduation speech in my elementary school’s ceremony. That was a different time though, and much has changed. I was giving a speech that day, because I had to; it was a job handed down to me by the faculty. But now, here I am voluntarily; with the speech that I really, really, really want to give, as it is the uttermost, hands-down the greatest honor bestowed upon me, because I was chosen by my fellow classmates of RC’12 to carry this responsibility.
Fellow graduates, and dear guests, let me tell you first what this speech is not going to be about. It is not going to be about our mysterious future or any advice I am going to give you about it (stuff like follow your heart, be your own guide etc.), because I am in no position to do so. Instead, I will leave that mission to the old people that will speak in your college graduations: people like Bill Gates or Husnu Ozyegin. I am also not here to advertise to our beloved guests and parents how “extraordinary, and marvelous and intelligent” our class is. You may have witnessed this firsthand if you came to one of our Lise Lives, or orchestra concerts, or arts festivals, or by just taking a glimpse at your son or daughter’s coursework. Let it just suffice to say that we ourselves are bored of hearing about one of ours getting some sort of medal in the Monday flag ceremonies (knock on wood). I am not here even to congratulate ourselves for being graduated as, hey, our parents and sponsors did pay a lot of money for this- so we could at least show the decency to graduate. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be happy though, as it took a lot of hard work to graduate; and being an RC alumnus comes along with many perks, among which are access to Bizimtepe (which we dreamed to get in for years), our CVs standing out from the others on the pile in a job application, and –as I’ve heard- discounted entrance to a beach club called BURC beach in Kilyos.
5 years… Wow, what a great length of time. Counting the first 5 years of our lives negligible, as we don’t remember much about it, it makes a third of our lives. The day we first gathered at the maze as preps, with a tangible “We got in, now what?” expression on our faces seems so distant. It seems distant not only because quite a lot of time has passed, but because we have changed since that day, a lot. I, for one, have gone through many phases throughout my years in Robert College, one of which is the infamous phase when I rebelled against my parents for my “rights” to come home late. But now, I guess, with all the lessons we extracted from these phases, we found or own paths, just like Siddhartha, or Demian, or the Alchemist (We really did read an awful lot around this theme, didn’t we).
The point is, we changed, and we changed for the better. The force that brought this change the most was, however -other than our hormones and the strains of being a Robert College student- was ourselves. During this past 5 years in which we talked, ate, studied, had fun, and lived together, we influenced each other beyond measure. We built on our opinions, learned new things, shared life-changing experiences and we transformed, we transformed for the better. Looking back now, I realize that there is no better place, other than Robert College, between the years of 2007 and 2012 –among these many extraordinary and intelligent people- to change in. RC’12, I certainly liked you 5 years ago. But to be honest, now I like you more. I like what we have done to each other, and I like what 5 years in this school together has done to us.
“Together” is the keyword indeed. Small groups formed in our first years in this school dissolved as time went by, as girls quit gossiping about each other and chanted for a forumball match shoulder-to-shoulder, or as everyone left their shyness on their seats and danced the halay together both in front of the stage in an orchestra concert. A few weeks ago, we further embraced our unity by celebrating our last class day, when more than a hundred of us gathered in front of the school at 7.00AM, to yell out our school songs, celebrate our beloved teachers and inspire the younger students. Now, when the older alumni tell us about their wonderful memories, about how they invented forumball, or how they did secret things in the woods; I assure you, we also have many stories of our own. Stories that we cherish to such a degree, that we saw our friends cry at our class dinner, friends that never cried before. Baturay, of course, also cried.
We, RC’12, really got used to each other a lot, in this gorgeous campus overlooking the bosphorus. But, now, it’s time to let go. Today is indeed a bittersweet day, marking the end of an era in our lives in grandiose fashion, and funny hats on top of our heads. Nothing will ever be like this past 5 years, and deep within, unwillingly, we know it. I would like to think of these years not as a journey, as journeys do not last this long, but as parts of our identities, the identity of being a member of RC’12. The identity that we’ll proudly carry, whether we are on the green grass lawns of a university in Istanbul, or in an old library of one, far away abroad.
I would like to end my speech with a fitting poem:
In the snowy beech forest