For many, it has been four years. Four years since they pulled up to Freshman Quad, where coordinated upperclassmen unloaded their belongings into one of the AMRs. Four years since they gathered on The Beach to take their first official picture as the Class of 2017. And four years since they began to call Johns Hopkins University home.
Now, they say goodbye. But not without reminiscing, hugging their fellow Blue Jays, snapping selfies, and turning their tassels.
Students lined up in the hallways of Royal Farms Arena in downtown Baltimore on Wednesday afternoon while they awaited the start of their commencement procession.
On one senior's cap were lyrics from Disney's Moana that read, "Come what may, I know the way."
Julia Chavarry, who majored in earth and planetary sciences and behavioral biology, said the lyrics inspired her to persevere in the future. Chavarry will spend a gap year teaching environmental science to children in California after graduation.
"It's just a relief to feel like I've made it this far and am making my dreams attainable," she said. "It's been a really fun four years, and I'm excited to go into the world and make more memories."
Students make many memories during their undergraduate careers. They learn lessons that go far beyond organic chemistry or English literature.
"It's kind of something that challenges you to push your own boundaries," said Catherine Halpern, who studied cognitive science. "Even though you think you come in super prepared and really excited and ready to be here, it forces you to change a little bit and adapt, and, I guess, learn a lot about yourself."
Halpern's cap read, "Trying to put the pieces together," alongside colorful puzzle pieces. It symbolized her passion for autism research and her plans to study psychology at Stony Brook University in her hometown of Long Island, New York.
Asked to impart some wisdom to her first-year self, she said: "Don't think it's going to be as easy as you think it's going to be. You're in, but keep working, because it's hard."
Work hard and study more were popular pieces of advice graduates said they would give to their first-year selves. Others said they would encourage themselves not to waste any time.
"I'd say branch out, explore," said Marcus Spearman, a public health studies graduate. "You're going to grow as a person these next for years, so take in as much as you can."
Ayesha Shibli, a Writing Seminars and English double major who initially studied international studies, said she wished she would have discovered her passion for writing much earlier in her undergraduate career.
Crossing the stage to claim their degrees means students will enter into the "real world." With it comes furthering their educations, starting new jobs, and no longer walking down the hallway to say hello to a friend.
"It's super emotional because I probably won't get to be around my friends much longer, and I probably won't see them later in life much," said Jonathan Oliveros, an economics graduate who will move back to Miami, Florida, and work as a paralegal.
Oliveros and his friends said they would try to meet up once a year.
"All the relationships I've made with people here, sisters in my sorority, the people in my major, the professors," said Chavarry, "they have all been really wonderful and great role models."