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UNH's Class of 2024 reflects on a tumultuous few years — and offers words of wisdom

Students in the University of New Hampshire's class of 2024 walk across the stage at graduation.
Mara Hoplamazian / NHPR
Students in the University of New Hampshire's class of 2024 walk across the stage at graduation.

Seniors at the University of New Hampshire donned their caps and gowns this weekend for graduation ceremonies. For many in the class of 2024, college was bookended with upheaval – beginning with the onset of the pandemic, finishing with campus protests of Israel’s war in Gaza, some of which ended in arrests.

For many of this weekend’s graduates, college was also what it has been for generations of alumni: a place to learn new things and meet new friends.

“It's rare to have this opportunity to be in such a tight-knit community for so many years in a row,” said Seth Rupp, who majored in music. “I don't know if we'll have that again in life.”

Rupp said his high school graduation was far from normal – and the start to his college career was disorienting, too.

“Going right into college with virtual classes and kind of limited social capabilities and quarantining and covid testing is kind of a really strange world. So it's really cool to graduate and kind of have reached a point where it's sort of normal again,” he said.

The campus protests have been a big part of his last weeks as an undergraduate – he says they’re on everyones’ mind. But he says it wasn’t an interruption – just another part of his college experience.

“I personally was pretty proud of my community, to see people just showing up for what they believe in and using their voices,” he said. “It's been a little tumultuous and tense, but we made it nonetheless.”

Rupp’s friend Anna Coulobme, who majored in psychology and justice studies, said her favorite parts of college were the new people and opportunities.

“Some of the stuff that I've done here I've been nervous to do,” she said. “And that's ended up being some of the stuff that I'm most thankful that I did.”

Seth Rupp and Anna Coulombe met during their senior year through a mutual friend.
Mara Hoplamazian / NHPR
Seth Rupp and Anna Coulombe met during their senior year through a mutual friend.

Advice from the class of 2024

Mason Davis, who studied history and played football, said he didn’t get a real graduation from high school, so this one felt particularly special.

His team won the Coastal Athletic Association conference championships in 2022, which was a highlight. And Davis said making lifelong friends was one of his favorite things about college.

“It's like a small town in Durham,” he said, “but it's like a big group of people that always have your back and will support you no matter what.”

His advice for college students is to work hard and seek out advice from professors.

“They’re there to help you, big time,” he said. “Have fun as well, enjoy it. You only get to be in college one time.”

Mason Davis said the class of 2024 has bonded over their experience of the covid pandemic.
Mara Hoplamazian / NHPR
Mason Davis said the class of 2024 has bonded over their experience of the covid pandemic.

Rachel Dalai, who majored in political science and loved being a resident assistant, said students should make the most of their time in school.

“Make it worth it,” she said. “Do an internship, go abroad. Make good professional relationships.”

Rachel Dalai is going to law school after graduation.
Mara Hoplamazian / NHPR
Rachel Dalai is going to law school after graduation.

Joy Woolley and Clarissa Gowing said the key to college is getting involved — namely through joining clubs and studying abroad.

Both graduated from high school as the pandemic was starting. Woolley’s high school commencement was in a parking lot. She got her diploma in a plastic bag, while her parents watched from the car.

They met on Instagram, and then became friends in a Zoom class, talking on the Zoom chat. Now, they live together. And they started a club, Reading Rainbow, where members read books together by queer authors and authors of color.

“It will build you such a good support system, and you'll meet so many people that you wouldn't have otherwise,” Gowing said.

Joy Woolley and Clarissa Gowing said the pandemic was a big part of their first year on campus — but as they finished college, things felt more normal.
Mara Hoplamazian / NHPR
Joy Woolley and Clarissa Gowing said the pandemic was a big part of their first year on campus — but as they finished college, things felt more normal.

For Gabriela Onasanya, a political science and justice studies major, exploring campus was the best part of college. And having her family watch her graduate on Saturday was exciting.

Her advice? “Be open to new experiences. Be open to new people. Just be open.”

Gabriela Onasanya's family watched her graduate on Saturday.
Mara Hoplamazian / NHPR
Gabriela Onasanya's family watched her graduate on Saturday.

Sam Flynn, who studied mechanical engineering, had similar wisdom: “Join clubs, talk to new people they wouldn't normally.”

Sam Flynn stands in front of a wildcat on the UNH campus
Mara Hoplamazian / NHPR
Sam Flynn stands in front of a wildcat on the UNH campus

“Find your people. Find people who you click with,” said Adam Dapolit, who majored in political science and international affairs.” And it might not be right away, but just find people who you can surround yourself with and really make the experience what you want it to be.”

Adam Dapolit said he's hoping to find a career in state government, after studying political science and international affairs.
Mara Hoplamazian / NHPR
Adam Dapolit said he's hoping to find a career in state government, after studying political science and international affairs.

Isabella Hart, who studied fine art and food systems, said starting college with the pandemic was tough. But by sophomore year, she’d found her place. She started working as a tour guide and lived with seven roommates.

Isabella Hart poses with her diploma after her college graduation.
Mara Hoplamazian / NHPR
Isabella Hart poses with her diploma after her college graduation.

She was frustrated by the university’s response to protesters earlier this month. But she said it was exciting to see students getting involved and coming together.

Hart was looking forward to graduation, and she said it went by too fast. Her advice for future students is to build community and try new things.

“Get involved and talk to as many people as you can,” she said. “I think you'll find your connections in the most random places.”

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.
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