Savarni Sanka (’21), Undergraduate Diploma Ceremony speech

Good afternoon, everyone. I know we just had a big round of applause, but I’d like to invite one more round of applause for the class of 21. A big, big congratulations to all of you. This has been a day that’s years in the making, and I’m so grateful that even in these challenging times, we’re able to celebrate this wonderful milestone together. Before we go, I want to acknowledge that we’re not alone in our accomplishments. To the family, friends, faculty members, mentors, and loved ones that have joined us here and virtually, know that your support, love and guidance has made it possible for the class of 2021 to stand here today. You offered us encouraging words in your listening ears. You were our steadfast allies during midnight study sessions in ZSR. You invested in our learning and growth, and you walked with us through our deepest disappointments and our seasons of success. We are here today because we had you in our corners. So thank you.

Right now, the class of 2021 stands balanced on a precipice. Emerging from what has been a year of unprecedented uncertainty, we’re preparing to embark on yet another — and I’m positive you haven’t heard this line before — journey into the unknown. All jokes aside, for many of us, our postgraduate life will be the first time we find ourselves on a path without clearly defined next steps. As a long-time lover of color-coded spreadsheets and five-year plans, I know just how daunting this dive into the uncharted waters of the real world can feel.

But when I reflect on the past four years, the moments that stand out most vividly are those when I leaned into the unfamiliar, the unplanned and the unexpected. I think back to my first day on campus as a freshman, when I found myself assigned to a first-year seminar that I hadn’t even signed up for. That seminar was Dr. Billy Hamilton’s course on bluegrass music, and it ended up being one of the best classes I’ve taken at week to date. I think back to the sunny afternoon, during a study abroad program in Morocco, when my friends and I decided to wander the unmapped alleyways of our host cities, Old Medina, instead of heading directly home after class. That day, we stumbled upon a wedding procession and were fortunate enough to receive an invite from the bridal party to join in on the festivities. I think back to the first time I met a family of Syrian refugees. I was tutoring through SAFAR, the Wake Student Association for the Advancement of Refugees, my stomach tangled in knots as I worked up the courage to ring their doorbell. At the time, I spoke barely enough Arabic to introduce myself. Four years later, I count that family among my closest friends. If my time at Wake has taught me anything, it’s the power of resilience and determination in the face of the unfamiliar.

As we cross this very special milestone today and strive toward others in the years, I hope we can learn to find joy in the unexpected and embrace the unknown. I’m confident that our shared Wake Forest journeys have prepared us to conquer anything, from the every day to the extraordinary that life might throw our way.