August 07, 2023 - Sabaoot Esho
May 13, 2019, was the first time I received mail. Ever.
It was my senior year of high school in Erbil, Iraq, and at this point in my college application journey, I had already decided I was going to go with Ouachita as my school of choice. After all, the staff seemed friendly from our WhatsApp calls, I had a great scholarship and, based on what I could tell from my computer screen, it seemed like a decent school.
What I did not know from my online research was how Ouachita would go above and beyond my expectations and make possible what I believed to be impossible.
On a routine old Monday, right after my mom picked up my brother Samuel and me from school, we hopped on the elevator from the basement garage of our building and began the ascent to our sixth-floor apartment. Our elevator was stopped on the ground floor when, to my shock, the doors opened and a FedEx delivery driver stepped in.
“A FedEx driver?” I thought. “Here? In Erbil?”
You see, the postal system in Iraq exists only on paper. Houses and buildings don’t have street addresses. We have no mailmen, no mailboxes and certainly no mail. And yet there he was: the FedEx driver holding a purple box. Out of curiosity, I read what it said – and I almost yelped right then and there in the elevator.
“Ouachita Baptist University” was written on top!
But how? Surely this was for me. What were the chances someone else in this building was receiving a box with “Ouachita” written on it? On the other hand, the FedEx driver did press the fourth-floor button, and I lived on sixth. I decided to compose myself and subtly call my mother’s attention to it.
“The box he is holding has ‘Ouachita’ written on it. Can you read what the packing slip says and see if it’s ours?” I asked her quietly. Before I managed to finish my request, though, Samuel quickly yanked the box out of the driver’s hands.
“THIS IS OURS!” Samuel yelled in excitement and utter disbelief. The FedEx driver was stunned at what had just happened, but I had already forgotten about him. There it was: a package from Ouachita to me. All the way from America, now here in our hands.
It was a blur from the elevator to the apartment. I was engrossed in my surprise box, checking every side to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Samuel was equally as excited, yelling at me to open it and find out its contents. I was over the moon about an assortment of Ouachita branded buttons, a purple T-shirt and a cute white mug displayed on bright yellow crinkle cut paper.
As I look back at that memory and watch the short but severely embarrassing Snapchat video I took of myself screaming, I realize that what I was so excited about was not just the contents of the box. What I received in that box wasn’t just merchandise or material objects. To me it was a promise: Ouachita would go the extra mile for me, someone they had never even seen, a foreigner, a face on a photo uploaded with an application.
And it did fulfill that promise.
Today is also a routine old Monday, except it’s not. I am a Ouachita alumna now. I graduated in May, and I work as a graphic designer in Ouachita’s Office of Communications & Marketing – the very same office that designs and puts together the acceptance boxes that find their way to incoming Tigers all over the world.
We just got a brand-new batch of purple boxes that will soon go in the mail. I think whatever their expectations, their backgrounds, their history, our prospective students will find their acceptance box is just one of many ways Ouachita goes above and beyond to meet them where they are – even if that is physically or metaphorically halfway around the world.
Sabaoot Esho is the graphic design and print production specialist in the Office of Communications & Marketing at Ouachita.
Lead photo by Anna Roussel
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