Emma, Class of 2019
I just wanted to say a quick hello and let you know that I successfully made it through my first trimester at Carleton! I am in the middle of studying for finals and have eaten three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches thus far today but, generally, I’m doing really well. I like all of my classes and my professors are incredible.
Every one of them is knowledgeable, kind, and genuinely dedicated to supporting my intellectual and academic growth. I spend most of my time doing school work but I have a group of friends who I love dearly (we are planning a trip to Italy in the Spring), and I made an impulse decision to join Carleton’s rugby team. So far I cannot say that I have fallen in love with the sport but I definitely enjoy running around and looking utterly ridiculous as I tackle players who are infinitely more skilled than I am.
I also wanted to thank you for your hours of emotional and academic support. I have probably said this already, but I wanted to reiterate how grateful I am for your guidance throughout the college application and selection processes. I am so very happy at Carleton and I would not be here without your help. So thank you. I am also grateful for your teaching. Writing at Carleton is hard but I was definitely ready for the challenge.
I know you are probably incredibly busy this time of year with college applications and recommendation letters. You should encourage this year’s seniors to apply to Carleton. It’s a pretty cool place.
Paradis, Class of 2019
I am here because of the dust I left back home. It covers my feet to this day. In Rwandan culture, girls represent their homes. If a girl is clean, it is presumed her home is also clean. So, ever since I was little, I hated dust. I hated the way it made me choke when cars zipped by. I hated the cracks on my fingers I got from scrubbing my uniforms. I hated that no matter how many times I cleaned my papa’s black bible table, the dust always crept back. When I received an opportunity to attend a school in Friday Harbor, I was exhilarated: I am going to see the grand America, and I was escaping the Rwandan dust.
During my flight, I imagined Friday Harbor: people dancing on clean streets to a Beyoncé song; billboards looming overhead; teenagers skating in the park; and graffiti marking the city. I dreamed of a new Paradis: she wore ripped jeans, drove her own car, and went skydiving. Back in Rwanda, my father and my teachers encouraged me to research Friday Harbor. I strongly refused. I wanted America to surprise me. And it did.
It was not until I went on a hiking trip with my new school that I saw it. The dust. It was at my campsite and on the trails. Then it dawned on me: movies lied. Not all of America has billboards and street dancers, and not all of America is covered with clean roads. Suddenly, I wondered why I didn’t see the beauty in the dust.
I still have not seen any street dancers, but I have become a dancer myself. I have not skydived, but I have rappeled and ziplined. I have not seen graffiti, but I have helped kids at Friday Harbor Elementary School sketch drawings of their families and build their own snowmen. I am not the girl who wears ripped jeans, but I am a girl who no longer fears the dust. I have come to see dust as what connects me to the dust-covered feet of Rwandan women carrying their children on their backs and a dusty basket of tomatoes on their heads. And I see the American dust as part of the path to my future and the truths I learn along the way.