Nadia Saliba '95

Year of Graduation: 

"I intend to ... continue making and nurturing the connections that form such a meaningful part of our experience."

Before COVID-19, when I imagined May 2020 and my 25th Exeter reunion, I pictured a slightly more svelte version of myself chatting with classmates over a glass of wine at The Exeter Inn. I couldn’t wait to order a chicken-finger sub from Romeo’s, and to sit around Mr. Vorkink’s oversized Harkness table filled with books and knickknacks, marveling with classmates at how some of our most valued experiences after Exeter consisted of turns life took while we were making other plans. I anticipated my slow heartbeat, the smell of incense and the just extinguished] candles in the dark at the end of Evening Prayer.

And, most of all, I looked forward to reveling in those spontaneous conversations that happen between events, on campus pathways and greens, with Exonians I did not necessarily know well 25 years ago, but with whom I now discover an unexpected connection.

The reality of a pandemic world has put returning to campus on pause, and has forced us to reimagine how we will commemorate our 25th reunion. Over the past year, thanks to technology, I have had the chance to connect with classmates and other Exeter alumni in ways I might not have absent the pandemic. On a McConnell dorm reunion on Zoom, I got to meet former dorm mates’ new babies and hear about an old roommate’s hard-fought (and since successful!) campaign for Newport-Mesa school district trustee. Through an Exeter “Beyond the Book” session,

I discovered a classmate’s story of her father’s transgender journey during our Exeter years. It made me appreciate the numerous things I didn’t know about my classmates’ lives back then, and how grateful I am to have the opportunity to break down old barriers and know people better now.

So much of what I value about Exeter consists of the personal connections it has fostered in my life with people of diverse talents, interests and paths in life. During my three years as a student at the Academy, Exeter gave me my family away from home, my closest confidants and my first love. My connections with fellow students and faculty taught me to hold myself to a high standard academically, athletically and personally.

In the years since, those same connections have become an integral part of my professional network, and a constant source of enriching relationships. Many of my closest friendships today are with Exeter classmates.

When I connect with another Exonian, I know that even if our time at the Academy was separated by 20 years, we share many elements of the same experience. We each remember our yearly spots in Assembly Hall, and the privilege we felt when the words “senior class” were called. We remember extended hours in the library sitting with friends, all working on our 333 papers. We remember the lyrics of “Celebrate” echoing around the quad just after the midnight scream. We remember the difference between who we were when we graduated and who we were when we entered.

The realities of the COVID-19 world mean our delayed 25th reunion this May still won’t look like what I once imagined. But I intend to seize the opportunity of a virtual reunion to continue making and nurturing the connections that form such a meaningful part of our experience.

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the spring 2021 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.

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