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The following seniors have embraced the bittersweetness of graduating college. 

Graduation can be a rewarding event, and while it’s exciting to look forward to what lies ahead, there are always bittersweet moments when it comes to leaving. Five seniors were asked to reflect on their favorite and most hilarious moments from JMU.

Mady Starke

Starke is a health services administration major with a business minor. She’s spent her time at JMU working for the Office of Residence Life; she currently works in the housing department as a student assistant. Some of her favorite memories from the past four years revolve around her experience as a resident adviser in Chappelear Hall, such as being able to go through orientation with her residents and see them become acclimated to campus as they made JMU their home. 

She’s also gained experience with work related to her major. She worked for the Virginia Department of Medical Assistant Services as a caretaker for children with disabilities. Starke advises underclassmen and incoming freshman to take advantage of the resources that people in their majors can offer and to especially make connections with faculty as they can provide helpful guidance and opportunities.

The Monday after graduation, Starke will start her two-month internship at Sentara RMH Medical Center in the patient experience department, trying to understand patient experience and improve doctor training. She also plans on working to help ensure the LGBT community receives equitable treatment from local hospitals and clinics to spare them the need to travel to different cities.

Though she’s made many memories through her work experience, one of the funniest things to happen to Starke occurred during the beginning of her freshman year when she and her roommate were trying to use the waffle machine at D-Hall.

“I don’t know what [my roommate] did, but she made the waffle machine explode, and the batter exploded all over the floor. And of course, we were really young first years and we just made such a huge mess,” Starke said. “It got all over our clothes, and we just walked back to our dorm covered in batter.”

Gab Calderon 

Calderon, a double major in dance and media arts and design, has been involved in many organizations during her time at JMU. She’s participated in the Visual Distortion Dance Crew, Mozaic Dance Team, dance theater, Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and was an ambassador for the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA). 

Currently, Calderon is going through interview processes and hoping to get a job with an advertising, communications or public relations agency for a few years. Then, she hopes to go back to dance. 

One of her favorite memories from JMU is of the first time she performed at Coalescence, a large hip-hop showcase on the East Coast. Here, she connected with her current best friends and met new people from different universities. She’s had the opportunity to go back and perform every year since she started. 

Since Calderon has been a part of a variety of activities during her time at college, she encourages everyone to do the same.

“Do something outside of your major because that’s where I got my most favorite experiences from, and that’s how I learned a lot more about myself,” Calderon said. “Don’t just go to classes and come back and then go eat and then sleep. Always try and do something that you’re interested and passionate about other than what you’re studying at school.”

Julianna Kaiser

Kaiser is an integrated science and technology major. After graduation, she’ll be serving in the Peace Corps in the Philippines for two years and three months. 

She says it’s important to “find your family” when one arrives to college, whether it be hallmates and suitemates or people in classes. She emphasizes that it’s crucial to find a support system. Kaiser experienced one of her funniest memories at JMU with her hallmates freshman year. Some people in her hall took a Walmart shopping cart back to the dorm after making a run to the store, leading people to ride through the hallways and joust with it. Kaiser looks back on the incident as being pure chaos and absolutely hysterical. 

Aside from working within her major, Kaiser was involved with the breakdance club and club swim. One of her favorite experiences at JMU was at the club swim nationals competition during her junior year. 

“I placed second in my race, and I dropped two seconds off my best time,” Kaiser said. “I think that was one of my best memories from college because my team was super supportive, and they were all really proud of me for dropping such a large amount of time off of my race.”

Sakshi Desai

Desai is an international student from Dubai and is an integrated science and technology major. She’s been involved in the International Student Association, belly dancing, the Environmental Management Club, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE) and Epsilon Sigma Alpha. 

About two weeks after graduation, Desai will be moving to Charlottesville, Virginia, for her upcoming job in software engineering where she’ll be working to make mobile apps.

Desai’s favorite college memory was the first time she came to campus. She didn’t know anything before moving in, so being with First Year Orientation Guides (FROGS) and making JMU her home was a great experience. Though she found it hard to fit in at first, Desai noted there was always someone in a similar situation and people willing to help her out. For incoming freshman and underclassmen, Desai says it’s important to put oneself out there and join organizations.

A funny — albeit somewhat irritating — story she has from college is about her name.

“No professor has ever gotten my name right in five years of college,” Desai said. “I don’t think anybody’s ever pronounced my name right.”

Callie Bechtol

Bechtol is double-majoring in theatre and psychology. She’s currently the president of Sigma Alpha Omega, a Christian social sorority of which she was the secretary last year. Bechtol is planning to go to graduate school in Plymouth, New Hampshire, where she wants to study to become a drama therapist and work with pediatric oncology.  

One of the most hilarious things she experienced was during her sophomore year when she and some of her friends went to Blue Hole to swim. The small, grey Prius she was driving was getting beat up from the road on the mountain as they passed “no trespassing” signs and guns set up by the man living near the area. After they finally made it to Blue Hole safely and started to swim, police arrived and an officer called for the owner of Bechtol’s car to come up and meet with him. While he didn’t take her license number, the cop warned Bechtol about how crowded the top of the mountain could get. When she climbed back down to the water, all her friends were laughing, and she hasn’t been back since.

Another one of Bechtols favorite college memories was from last summer when she studied abroad in Deruta, Italy, for psychology. She and the friends she was with saw a group of kids playing soccer and joined in the game for about 30-40 minutes. 

“It was just really great to be immersed in culture like that and being able to interact with people even though there was sort of a language barrier,” Bechtol said. “It was just so much fun.”

Contact Kira Baldau at baldaukb@dukes.jmu.edu.

CORRECTION (4/30 at 2:37 p.m.): Mady's last name is spelled Starke. A previous version of the article spelled it Clarke. Callie's last name is spelled Bechtol. A previous version of the article spelled it Bechtold. Gab Calderon was an ambassador for the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA). A previous version of the article said she was an ambassador for the Virginia Physical Therapy Association (VPTA).