Foundations: Then and Now

By Lauren Herber, Editor-in-Chief

This January, I had the unique privilege of participating in Foundations for the second time, this time as a Cohort Leader and soon-to-be graduate of Thunderbird. The exhausting but rewarding week surprised me with an onslaught of nostalgia and reflection. It was a true “full circle” moment for me: I began and ended my time at Thunderbird with an experience that was just as radically different as it was similar. The sessions, activities, and schedule were the same. But the emotions, and who I am as a person, have changed drastically.

My cohort then. Go Jags! Courtesy Bianca Buliga
My cohort then. Go Jags! Courtesy Bianca Buliga

As I inch closer to my graduation date and further from the moment I began my Thunderbird journey, I’ve found myself taking note of what has changed and what has remained the same. When I sat on the far right side of the second row in Yount 100 and furiously scribbled notes during the CMC sessions, for instance, I had no idea what exactly I wanted to pursue in my career. Now, as I prepare to leave Thunderbird and start my postgrad job, I still don’t know what exactly I want to do. As I sat shivering in the TEC during Dr. Javidan’s misfit speech, I felt an overwhelming sense of belonging that I still feel now. And I remember sitting for the first time in Lecture Hall 53 as James Scott gave us an introduction to our curriculum and feeling overwhelmed by all there was to learn. Now, 12 classes and three semesters later, though I’ve learned much, I know I’ve barely scratched the surface and that there will always be more to learn and discover.

My cohort now. Go Coyotes! Courtesy Angie Mitchell
My cohort now. Go Coyotes! Courtesy Angie Mitchell

Though these things, and many others, may never change, my attitude towards them has. I’m no longer afraid of the uncertainty of not knowing what my career will look like. Instead, I embrace it. I’m excited for the ambiguity of my future, for I know that in it lie many adventures. When I first heard Dr. Javidan’s misfit speech, I thought that sense of belonging was tied to Thunderbird as a physical entity. But now I know that whenever I’m with T-birds, I’ll always feel at home. The stream of unfamiliar faces that passed me during my first Foundations has become a source of invaluable support, both personally and professionally. As I watched these same people introduce themselves to the incoming class, I reflected on the journey that resulted in these strangers becoming mentors, friends, and supporters. During my first Foundations, I had no idea that the energetic French professor would one day advise me in my salary negotiations, or that the current student who invited us to apply to Das Tor would become one of my closest mentors and friends. At the time, all of these people that I met were a constant blur. I didn’t realize that by the time I graduated, they would become shining points of clarity in my personal and professional journey. When I went through my first Foundations, I was hungry for adventures in faraway places. Now I realize that the most amazing adventures lie not in places but in people.

New students: you’ve been given an overwhelming amount of advice by a great number of people (myself included). Some of that advice you will follow, and some of it you won’t (and maybe end up wishing you did). But that’s okay, because each Thunderbird journey is unique and must be forged on its own. But I encourage you to reflect every now and then: on how you’ve changed, on how your expectations have altered, on where your interests have grown, on the people that have shaped your life in ways you never would have imagined. I encourage you to stop trying to make sure everything is perfect all the time and just let your life happen; you’ll be amazed at the way things turn out. And I encourage you to help others and to let others help you. Relationships are what make Thunderbird such an amazing and unforgettable experience. So for right now, Foundations might seem like an unnecessarily busy week full of a blur of names, faces, and information. But a year from now, Foundations will stand out in your mind as the first memories you made at Thunderbird, the first relationships you built, and the first time you realized you were home.

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