The Sounds of Graduation

A lot has changed since I first set foot on campus in the fall of 2018. From writing my first final exam in a blue book to now completing every assignment virtually or picking a new major during my freshman year to wondering if I should transfer altogether during my sophomore year, my time as an undergraduate and graduate student at The University of Texas has been marked by one word: change.

For the past five years, I have called the Forty Acres home. So much has happened that, looking back now, I find it hard to put everything into words. Thankfully, I have five years’ worth of music that does just that. As I reflect on my time as a student at Texas, there are certain songs that transport me back to the earliest days of freshman year, back to late nights rehearsing presentations or working on papers, and back to living in a rickety house in North Campus with six of my best friends that UT has given me.

To capture the wealth of experiences that five years of growth and self-discovery can provide in just a few songs is a tall task, but I have attempted to do just that in a playlist of 40 songs that best capture my time on the Forty Acres. I call it ‘40 Songs for the 40 Acres’ Clever, right? Below, I have included 10 of these songs to provide a glimpse into my time as a Longhorn.

“It’s Not the Same Anymore” – Rex Orange County

This song is linked to my sophomore year—my most challenging year of college. Amid the challenges and frustrations of that year, this song helped me acknowledge and express how I was feeling. While it is a sad song, I listen to it now with fondness, feeling proud of how much I’ve grown and thankful for the lessons that shaped who I am today.

“New Normal” – Khalid

This song transcends the entirety of my college experience. It applies to every stage of my time as a student at Texas because it addresses the reality that there will always be change. The new normal is learning to embrace the change and whatever it may bring with it.

“Dotted Line” – Pinegrove

April 2020: I return to my apartment in Austin to pack up all my belongings because I will be finishing my semester from home due to the pandemic. My roommates in that apartment listened to Pinegrove, and as I packed up my room, I listened to this album for the first time. This song reminds me of those friends and makes me thankful for the time we shared in that apartment, even though it was cut short.

“Doses & Mimosas” – Cherub

For three years of college, I had the same roommate, Sam. He loves music more than anyone I’ve ever met, and he showed me this song in the first year of our friendship. It is a staple in our music rotation to this day, and I think of him and his pivotal role in my college experience every time I hear it.

“Shower the People” – James Taylor

My parents have played James Taylor’s music around the house for as long as I can remember. In the moments when college and life felt overwhelming, his music provided a sense of calm, a feeling that everything would be alright at the end of the day. This song is linked to the summer before my final year as a graduate student, providing peace among the many changes of finishing school and preparing for life after school.

“Save Your Tears” – The Weeknd

Remember that rickety house with six of my best friends that I mentioned just a bit ago? This was our favorite song of junior year, and it makes me think of them every time I hear it.

“I Got a Name” – Jim Croce

Entering my final year as a graduate student, change was on the horizon. This song reminded me to be proud of my accomplishments and to step into the future with confidence.

“Less Than Zero” – The Weeknd

This album was released just before my final semester of senior year. Before the semester started, my friends and I took a trip to Big Bend National Park. While driving throughout the park, we would play this album. This is my favorite song from the album, and I look back on that semester with a lot of gratitude for the people I shared it with.

“Surefire” – Wilderado

I was able to be in college at the same time as both of my siblings. Before my older brother graduated and moved away, we spent a weekend camping, and this song is tied to that weekend for me. It is a sentimental song that speaks to the reality that while people come and go with the passage of time, memories remain.

“I Wouldn’t Have Missed It For The World” – Ronnie Millsap

My dad introduced this song to me when I was young, but it wasn’t until college that I began to understand the sentiment behind it. I look back at the people and things that used that were in my life that might be gone now with a sense of appreciation for how they helped me get where I am now. I wouldn’t trade any of it because it led me to where I am now.

While my time as a Texas Ex is just beginning, I will carry the memories that I made during my time as a student here for a lifetime. And thankfully, I have these songs to help me keep these memories alive. Whether you completed your time in college five years ago or 50 years ago, I have to imagine that there are songs that take you back to certain places and people. So, as graduation season arrives, I would encourage you to dust off your record player, Walkman, iPod shuffle—whatever you use to enjoy music—and allow the songs that encapsulate your college experiences to transport you back to that time, that place, that person.

For the full playlist:




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