Wellness: Semester Closure & Gratitude


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

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Whether you have just graduated in May 2018, have some final courses to complete during the summer, will be a returning student in the Fall, will be going away for an academic internship next semester, will be taking a gap year, a leave of absence, and/or simply enjoying and relaxing this summer – the end of an academic year and the possibilities for the summer ahead can be emotional, exciting for some and perhaps nerve-wracking for others. Either way, it is helpful to intentionally reflect on bringing closure to the academic year.

Gratitude is a great way to stay connected to others, be they faculty, staff and/or peers. Take some time to reflect and perhaps journal what you are most grateful for this past semester, year, or cumulative journey at Penn, thus far.

These need not be major events, but could be moments, passing interactions that made a difference for you, insights gained, thoughts and gestures observed and appreciated, or a concrete act.

You need not be the explicit beneficiary of a direct act of kindness, support or favor. Perhaps you simply observed and appreciated a peer’s contribution to a class or project, or their voice, orientation, views, approach and/or work ethic. In fact, acknowledgment and validation is a great form of expressing gratitude. Gratitude that builds up and encourages is more authentic and valuable.

Even if there were some challenges, starting with gratitude is a great way to gain perspective, find common ground, open up conversation, or gain a sense of closure. Finding the pearl in the sand can help bring resilience and transition us to the next stage. Gratitude is a great counterbalance to challenging situations, as it can be more humanizing to stay connected through gratitude, despite of differences, than to completely disconnect.

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Students often ask me if they should purchase an impressive “gift” as a token of gratitude. But that is not necessary at all. In fact, depending on ethical rules, faculty and staff may not accept physical tokens. A simple note or email that expresses your thoughtfulness in gratitude can help you release your appreciation and connect with the individual through acknowledgment. Keep it short, specific/authentic, and professional.

Gratitude is a great way to network, bring closure to milestones, transition to other stages, and connect to your inner self – as you grow and develop alongside others in your academic career. Gratitude will restore your sense of positivity, by affirming your perceptions in relation to others, and as a result, validate, build up and strengthen your own, intentional community.

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By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow & Instructor