by Daisy Jasmine, Staff Writer
Dear Prince Morrison,
Before I came to Thunderbird, I was something of a loner. I had friends I loved, to be sure, but I never truly felt that coveted sense of community—a tightly knit group of ponies who really, without caveats, considered me one of them. This only got worse after my undergraduate, when I was away from those friends I had made. With my degree in hoof I spent every day cantering back and forth between the library and my home. If I didn’t reach out to anyone, I could go weeks without hearing from them—and who had time for such silly stuff as friends when there were jobs to apply to?
But then I had a vision that scared me. I saw myself never discovering what I’m meant to do with my life. So, like any reasonable educated creature would do, I decided to return to the one thing I knew best: school. I studied for the GRE, I took the GRE, I passed the GRE, and I put in my application… for the MBA program at W.P. Carey.
And then I got a letter from you.
A blue seal of a majestic-looking bird greeted me with mention of a scholarship. I had never heard of this “Thunderbird” before, and I was leery of spending the necessary time and effort to diverting from my original plan. My mother wound up convincing me to at least apply.
And then I got another letter. My acceptance. Same day as the one from W.P. Carey.
I hemmed and hawed for a long while. I consulted all manner of oracles and prognostic mediums for a sign—which way should I go? The smooth course in the familiar surroundings of Tempe? Or something new and kind of scary? I looked askance at the prospect of going to school in Glendale of all places. In the end, I wound up making the decision like a true business student would: based on monetary value. Thunderbird’s degree cost more, so it must be worth more, right? Oh, if only I knew.
Big Adventure, Tons of Fun
I knew from the first moment I stepped hoof on this campus—after passing the entrance three times before seeing it—that this was going to be unlike anything I had ever been a part of before. When I stepped into the crowded TEC, I didn’t have a single moment to feel nervous before my cohort leader spotted me and welcomed me with a smile like she had known me forever. Under the flags of the world, I was thrown into the mix with my new classmates, each seeming just as excited as I was to be there. Before long we were swept up into the stampede of Foundations, thundering from academic sessions to social activities, barely stopping to catch our breath in between.
During the Thundercrawl, my hearing loss became an unexpected issue during a simple game—and then another, and I briefly found myself discouraged as I was reminded of experiences I’d had all my life. But what happened then was something new—my cohort leader and an advisor who would prove to be an amazing ally sat with me, listened to my worries, and let me know that it was okay. And as soon as I left that room and rejoined my cohort, I noticed a difference. Ponies turned to face me, made room for me at tables near the speaker, some even encouraged me to learn sign language with them. All at once, I was no longer left to shoulder the burden of accommodation alone.
From that point on, there was no escaping the magic of the Thunderbird mystique. Our group messages chattered endlessly, and when I had to go to my (slightly soul-draining) job, I still had a team of wild horses there with me in spirit, bringing me joy and making the shifts go a little faster.
Despite my lifetime of shyness, I started to actually look forward to attending social events. I didn’t feel a need to be perfect, to hide my quirks or keep to myself and let others do all of the talking. I could even sing without worrying about sounding “right.” As I howled along to classic rock and roll with my new family at my first trivia night, the first lesson dawned on me.
Lesson 1: Friends will accept and love you, differences and all, if you give them that chance.
A Beautiful Heart, Faithful and Strong
During my first few months at Thunderbird, I felt the occasional pang of resentment and loss with regards to my artistic career. Five years of painstaking training in more media than I could count—some more successful than others, as made evident by the jagged scar on my hoof from my one endeavor at printmaking—and excruciating critique sessions, and I had left it all behind to pursue a business degree. I sometimes found myself feeling almost guilty, like I had betrayed the past me who thought she would be an artist by trade. Combined with a few years of unsuccessful NaNoWriMo attempts, this made for a sad perspective on the validity of my creative skill set.
However, as time went on and I began to find my place within the Thunderbird community, I soon heard the call to my pencils and paintbrushes once more. Word of my talent spread much like it did during my foalhood, with friends taking notice of my doodles and sketches until my reputation for being “artsy” was firmly set. My misgivings about the “value” of my art were easy to shake off once I had the encouragement of my Thunderbird family. It wasn’t long until I felt confident enough to try my hoof at another creative outlet I had left behind me, my family’s trade—writing. Earning the opportunity to write for Das Horse has given me a newfound faith in my abilities, and a restored trust in the critique process. I’ve been very lucky to have such an environment where I can create works I’m proud of and receive helpful feedback from friends and colleagues I respect and admire with all of my heart.
Lesson 2: Take pride in your talents, and don’t be afraid to try new ones out. Friends encourage each other to grow.
Sharing Kindness is an Easy Feat
For all of its magic and community, Thunderbird is still a graduate school—and that means stress. Every pony here is an overachiever who pushes themselves to their limits. And while that leads to great things, it also leads to conflicts and misunderstandings. I’m certainly not immune to the effects of stress, and I’ve been on both sides of my fair share of disputes. And the thing is, those disputes make the stress worse. Little things can grow into huge rifts if left unchecked, so it’s up to each of us to take responsibility and keep that from happening, for our own sake and that of the ponies around us. It’s true that sometimes it can seem impossible to overlook those little missteps and mistakes as they add up. However, once you realize that no pony is perfect, it’s actually the easiest thing in the world. We have so much less to worry about if we’re forgiving to one another when it counts.
Lesson 3: Err on the side of love and kindness. When things go wrong, it helps to know when to let it go—and when to put your hoof down to protect yourself and your friends.
And Friendship Makes it All Complete!
I spent the whole year dreading this week. After all, it’s a little unfair, isn’t it? I just discovered my place in the world, and the herd I belong with, and now I have to leave it behind? The horror! My thoughts have raced with the worry that as soon as I collect my degree and step off the campus for the last time, every experience I’ve had and every friendship I’ve made will disappear in a puff of smoke. I asked around to see if any unicorns knew any time travel spells so I could delay graduation, but no such luck.
But I started to see it differently after Campus Tribute weekend. I saw this quiet little campus suddenly brimming with life as alumni galloped back from the farthest corners of Equestria for one last reunion on the old stomping grounds, and I saw ponies who hadn’t seen each other in years happily fall into their old routines and smiles like it hadn’t even been a day. When the classic planes roared overhead, an unseen alum on board and a mob of cheering ponies around me on the ground, the final piece of the Thunderbird mystique puzzle fell into place for me.
Lesson 4: No matter how far you roam, true friends are forever.
This pegasus is ready to take to the sky. Thank you for everything, Thunderbird.
Your Faithful Student,