Pilgrimage to Penfield: A senior's perspective

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I never went to Pilgrimage to Penfield as a freshman.
I’m not sure why I skipped it, but it probably had to do with me thinking I was too cool to go, and that the trip wouldn’t be fun. It’s a silly attitude to have, but a lot of freshman start college thinking that having school spirit isn’t cool.
I’m not talking about wearing orange and black or painting up at sports games. That’s not school spirit. I’m talking about really loving your school — about connecting with it. I’m talking about belonging to a community that spans more than a century’s worth of students.
I eventually grew out of my “too cool for school” attitude, as most freshmen do. But I always regretted missing Pilgrimage to Penfield.
So this year, my senior year, I decided to go.
I saw Jesse Mercer’s grave and went to a chapel service in the original university chapel, which is the only Mercer building left at Penfield. We had dinner and watched fireworks, and I had a great time.
I think the freshmen appreciated the trip, but it’s impossible to fully appreciate Pilgrimage to Penfield until you’re a senior and you’ve realized all the ways Mercer has impacted your life.
When I started college, I thought it would be like high school. I’d go to class, make some friends, and eventually graduate. I’d be the same Emily, just smarter.
But I’m not the same Emily. Mercer gave me confidence, pride and independence. Mercer taught me to be a leader. Mercer taught me that stories have the power to impact communities and bring diverse groups of people together. It taught me that journalism is not just about writing — it’s about serving a community.
At Pilgrimage to Penfield, I got to see where everything I am today began. If Penfield didn’t exist and if Jesse Mercer and other Baptists hadn’t started a college there, I might not be here now, ready to graduate with degrees in journalism and French.
As a senior, Pilgrimage to Penfield made me more thankful for Mercer than it would have as a freshman. The people whose graves I saw, the chapel pew where I sat, all of those have directly impacted me in ways I couldn’t have foreseen.
If you’re new to Mercer, you’ll come to appreciate it the way other seniors and I do, soon.
It happens in moments like preview days, when you run into prospective students on campus and try to convince them why Mercer is the best university ever. It happens at events in Macon, when you see Mercer students involving themselves in the welfare of the city. It happens at sports games, when you’re cheering on the Bears with hundreds of other orange-clad people. And it happens in class, when you finally realize what you’re passionate about.
No university is perfect, of course, but I think ours comes pretty darn close.

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