Senior Reflection: Riley DeBaecke

Riley DeBaecke

I write this reflection during a Wednesday morning “caf-sit,” which I hope all Bucknellians enjoy before they graduate. These past few weeks (and months), I have made a sustained effort to appreciate the people and the place of Bucknell amidst a whirlwind of deadlines. Nothing surpasses my tranquil early-morning walks in the Grove after a 6 a.m. rowing practice. The birds in the Grove were definitely more awake than I, on some days! But so it goes, in college. We persevere amidst a hurricane of obligations in a marathon sprint to the end of the semester, eight different times, and suddenly we are in the middle of finals in our last semester of senior year. Where did the time go?

My Bucknell experience began with the Arts First pre-orientation program. At program’s end, I dove head-first into orientation with relationships that lasted my four years. Classes began, and I had the brilliant idea to try out for the varsity women’s rowing team despite having never stepped foot in a rowing shell in my life. I got into the rhythm of classes and rowing and went home in December excited for the next semester.

Fast forward to spring break, and I sat in the University of Delaware library working on a paper when I received the email telling us that Bucknell would hold the rest of the semester’s classes remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. My momentum up to that point shattered, and the following weeks blurred together between tears and the bumps and bruises of readjusting to home life while simultaneously learning how to take classes through video calls. The Class of 2020 perhaps felt the impact of this decision the most, but the Class of 2023 fought to stitch itself back together the following year. I am proud of my classmates who persevered through this difficult time and the following years in which the pandemic still pervaded our everyday lives. It was not easy, and our record attendance at Senior Sunset is evidence of our resilience.

Many of my classmates, including myself, balanced the pressures of the pandemic with their desires to reach for the stars during their time at Bucknell. We rearranged our schedules to accommodate study abroad semesters, athletic training trips, acappella performances, and more. We fought for racial, gender, and LGBTQIA+ equity despite facing many constraints. We laughed, loved, and cried together in a tumultuous, uncertain world.

My time at Bucknell was a time of growth and resilience, and growth does not come without pain, as Maddy Scopano ‘22 acknowledged in her senior reflection. As did many of my overachieving classmates, I often took on too many responsibilities, and grappling with the repercussions of that has taught me a lot about myself and what it takes to excel at an institution like Bucknell. Nevertheless, I remain grateful to Bucknell for providing me the space to pursue and support all of the academic, artistic, and athletic endeavors for which I found unparalleled passion within myself and my incredibly talented classmates. I close this chapter excited for the future and thankful for all of the Bucknell circles and professors that welcomed and nurtured me throughout my four years. If I could leave all Bucknellians reading this with three pieces of advice, I would say this: take care of yourselves and each other, cultivate your intellectual curiosity, and speak up for what is right. ‘ray Bucknell!

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