Five years ago, I was sitting in my graphic design class poking about Google. I had already finished my final for the semester and decided to look at design universities. I thought about going to Virginia Tech or Pratt for a while. I wanted a school where I could learn about design, but also focus on academics. Then, I stumbled upon Drexel University. I honestly couldn’t tell you what website I was on, but it ranked Drexel in the top five schools for graphic design in the country. Once I dug a little deeper and did some research, I decided to submit my portfolio. I’d been looking at a few schools, so it wouldn’t hurt to submit my portfolio and see what would happen.
It was in April of 2014 that I received my acceptance email. I decided to pick up my life and leave my friends, family, and cat in Las Vegas. I was moving across the country to go to Drexel University in fabulous Philadelphia, PA. It was one of the best decisions I’d ever made (aside from going back for my cat).
Last week, I earned my Bachelor’s of Science in Graphic Design. I graduated Magna Cum Laude with minors in Fine Arts, Art History, and Marketing. I felt accomplished, overwhelmed, and excited to share the moment with my friends and family. I’d spent the last three months before graduation planning and prepping my small apartment for the seven people it would be holding in June. In between writing long marketing term papers about sales forecasting and revisiting my design portfolio, I’d randomly pick times to wash my walls or scrub my air vents. I was buying air mattresses between classes and scheduling every hour my guests would be here with me. What can I say – I like a good plan.
The week leading up to my graduation was a little stressful because I had to take my final final exams and get ready for my Graphic Design Senior Showcase. Once I took my last Marketing final, I was able to sit down and truly appreciate the wave of love and support surrounding me. The night before my Senior Show, my mom put my dinner together for me for the first time in four years. I sat with my best friends, who had just got off their five-hour flights, and laughed about how I ordered Qdoba catering for them because I honestly can’t be bothered to cook. Alyssa, one of my mentors at Michael Graves Architecture & Design, even drove down to visit me at my Senior Show the following day. All week I reflected on how fortunate I am to have such positive and supportive people around me.
Two days later, I sat in Drexel’s gym (which had received a full HGTV makeover), in an oversized gown, jittery and excited. After a few speeches, my row was ushered to the side of the stage to wait in line. Immediately my anxiety took over and waiting in line felt like it took ages.
I was worried I’d trip and fall, or forget to walk when my name was called. Before I knew it, I heard, “Theresa Tobin!” I rushed forward, shook President Fry’s hand, hugged my Graphic Design advisor, Bill, and then immediatly became a Drexel graduate. It was so sudden.
At that point, the rest of the names were called, and the ceremony wrapped up. Before I left for the summer, there was one final thing I had to do on Drexel’s campus, though. My boyfriend, Austin, and I met one of our best friends (and roommate) during our Freshman year. We all lived in a tiny dorm room in Calhoun Hall. After hearing rumors that Drexel was thinking of tearing it down, we wanted to take one final picture in front of the building on my big day. We ran over, took a few goofy photos, and went home to our reasonably sized apartment.
Later that day, we changed out of our formal clothes, and into one of my graduation presents. Three months ago, my roommate, Jon, came up with the hilarious idea that we should all wear matching tee-shirts on the day of my graduation. The design was inspired by the work I did for Mutant Water Babies. In the past, I had pitched a logo tee-shirt as a revenue booster for the production. Though the idea was shot down, Jon really loved my design. We took the type-treatment I used for the Mutant Water Babies logo, and spelled out, “Magna Cum Laude.” Each of my loved ones (and a stranger online) bought shirts in blue and green – making us look like a family unit.
While everyone was here, it was so important to me that they experience my version of Philadelphia. Among other things on the list, I wanted to take them to Manayunk. It’s a small, creative neighborhood not too far away from where I live. I spent the entirety of Spring term in my Junior year, working on my Travel Newsletter for my Typography 3 class. We went to Lucky’s Last Chance, the burger joint I wrote about and featured in the newsletter, and walked down Main Street. We ended the day watching the sunset on the large pedestrian bridge overlooking the neighborhood. My best friend, Kelsea, took so many pictures of us in the ‘magic hour’ lighting, and it was a great way to end the day.
It was such a privilege to be able to spend a little less than two weeks with those I care so much for. Everyone that came to celebrate with me brought so much love with them. I could never thank them enough for all of their support.
For my immediate family, my graduation had a little more meaning behind it. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a soul alive who was more excited to see me graduate than my dad. There were times it seemed like he was more excited than I was! He’d always talk about how proud he was of me and how he couldn’t wait to see me open my own design firm – as though it would happen two days after I graduated. Unfortunately, he couldn’t sit with my mom and friends to watch me accept my diploma. He passed away this past November. It was very sudden. Every day surrounding my graduation, he was on my mind. I could picture him tearing up with joy, and it made me tear up. It was in those moments that I could feel him with me, and felt whole and proud of my accomplishment.