Dear UMass Amherst,
It’s been a few weeks since I saw you for what could be the last time for a long while. I’ve returned to a place that I used to call home, that is, until I met you. I first heard about you through my high school guidance counselor, who suggested you to me because of your massive marching band (of which I am an avid fangirl). Skeptical as ever, I met you in person for the first time on a sunny day late in September of my senior year of high school. If I ever felt love at first sight, it was when I walked to the Campus Center with my dad to take my first tour. My love for you has only grown ever since.
Thanks for all of your concrete magnificence.
All of your buildings and pavement that I paved my own path on, and the construction which never ceased, only moved from place to place around campus. Those who don’t know you call you ugly, but I often referred to you as my “little city”, and for good reason. You taught me that things change fast, and that the best things are built with a solid foundation and in good time. You helped me see that it’s the beauty that lies in the details, such as the inspiration quotes scrawled all over the Bartlett bathrooms or catching a glimpse of a UMass sunset – there’s nothing like it. I myself morphed with the ever-changing construction projects surrounding me, reconstructing my own identity in turn. I can say for certain I’m not entirely the same person I was when I took in the concrete walls of Southwest for the first time four years ago.
Thanks for all your yummy food.
All the Grab N’ Go runs, Late Night meals with friends and castmates after long rehearsals, the best egg and cheese sandwiches and tater tots that nursed my hungover soul to life after a long night of shenanigans, and lobster, steak and mac and cheese every Halloween. You weren’t awarded #1 dining for nothing. Thank you for letting me experience new foods, coming from a used-to-be picky eater. You taught me to open my horizons, if not my palette, and be open to new things, whatever they may be (like the few extra pounds I put on subsequently).
And, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fabulous eateries downtown in Amherst Center as well. $1 pizza slices after a trip to the bars at Antonio’s, sugary donuts from Glazed, a warm latte from Share/Rao’s Coffee, popovers and lobster bisque at Judie’s, any pasta entree from Pasta E Basta… the list could go on and on. I was well fed in my time at Amherst.
Thanks for showing me a good time.
Every pregame, where we sang/screamed our favorite songs together over shots of whatever we could find, and always ending the night with wings or quesadillas. Every game of beer pong, especially the ones I won. Every tailgate before each home football game, the parking lot filled to the brim with trucks, flags flying, smoke rising from barbecues cooking chicken, cheeseburgers, steak, not being able to hear myself or others over all the noise. Every hockey and basketball game, chanting out the other team, newspapers on the backs of seats, thanking the announcer for his reminders of each period being over, and of course, singing “Sweet Caroline” together. Every party in every frat house, apartment, or Circus, screaming the lyrics of all the songs I knew to the ceiling. A celebration every weekend, a toast to finishing a hard assignment or test, to finishing a run of a show, to being young, wild and free, or sometimes, to no reason at all. Thanks for all the good times I had with good pals I’m lucky enough to call my friends. Some nights were ridiculous but I can assure you all were ridiculously fun.
Thanks for letting me explore my passions through learning.
With the exception of neuroscience, which I’m sure all Comm Dis majors can relate to, I can’t say there’s a class in my major that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. One of the best parts of college was being able to take classes that I was actually interested in, as opposed to high school where I zoned out every morning in AP Euro. These classes made me excited for the future, of what’s to come outside the classroom. I learned the International Phonetic Alphabet, dissected the components of a soundwave, conducted my first screening using an audiometer, and even analyzed sound clips as part of a professor’s research study. I’m looking forward to holding a physical copy of my degree in my hands within the next few months, easily the most expensive piece of paper I’ll ever own, and the one I worked the hardest for. It’s the first chapter, a building block and an essential part of who I aspire to become within the next few years.
Finally, a word to the best RSOs on campus (I’m only slightly biased):
To Alpha Phi Omega, Kappa Omicron Chapter:
I found you completely by chance on a table tent in Hamp and after a really rough first semester in college. I attribute lots of the good times I had in college to you. All the service projects at Camp Moses where we worked hard (and sometimes didn’t) clearing brush, chopping wood with axes, steel-toed boots, and taking down a crazy old shed together by the lake. Cabins, s’mores, and traditions by our bonfire, especially flashlight tag. You let me participate in some amazing service projects, like making tons of caffeinated creations at Freedom Cafe, collecting clothes for Big Brother Big Sister at Boston Marathon, and teaching Boy Scouts at our annual Merit Badge University, as a few examples. You helped me realized leadership potential in myself I didn’t think I had, serving in appointed and executive board positions as well as attending a regional conference as a representative of my chapter. You let me have some fun representing us in Greek Week as a featured cast member in our Lip Sync routines and as Greek Goddess for my team my junior year, and all of our banquets together. You gave me the best introduction to what college (and life, too) is really all about – the connections you make with each other and being a part of the surrounding community. You turned my college experience around for the better, and for that, I’m truly grateful.
To the UMass Theatre Guild:
I wish I’d met you sooner. After a few failed auditions my freshman year, I labeled you as “Out of My League” and decided not to audition at all my sophomore year, truly believing that my acting career was over. While I was able to focus on other aspects of my college experience during that time, I still felt like something was missing. Somehow, I gathered up the courage to audition for your production of Legally Blonde at the beginning of my junior year, and by some stroke of odd luck, you casted me. For a long time, I believed that the process was a crapshoot and that I’d never be able to get into another show again. After managing to get into two more shows subsequently, I started to believe more in my talent, that I actually was good enough. Acting has always given me a confidence I’ve only experienced from very few other activities in my life. Thank you for rounding out my college experience, for letting me feel something incredible in such beautiful performance spaces around campus, for all the fun and crazy times at the beloved Circus, and for letting me be a pretender for just a little while longer.
On my last night with you,
it was quiet and dark, but in a peaceful way, like things were coming full circle. The sky was covered in clouds, and the campus was devoid of any sign of human life. Almost like a ghost town, the concrete buildings surrounding me had an eerie yet comforting and familiar feeling to them. A cool wind blew between them and tousled my hair. Light rain brushed my cheeks, as if the campus itself mourned my leaving and was crying in response. After celebrating the end of my undergraduate career with some friends at a bar downtown, I was exhausted from a weekend filled with all sorts of celebrations, from my birthday to Mother’s Day, which all occurred simultaneously around the time I graduated. But despite my exhaustion, something pulled me to stay outside, if just for one more minute.
There was something magical about the stillness and the silence of it all. No commotion. No hustle and bustle. Not a single soul in this place except for me. I thought about all the times I walked back and forth through here, sometimes forgetting that this was a place I wouldn’t call home forever. Having that moment alone was the closure I needed before leaving early for New Jersey the next day. Right before heading inside, I looked out into the darkness and simply wished for more time.
I came, I saw, and I got that degree I’ve been chasing since day one. I’m trying not to rest on my laurels for too long, but it really does feel nice to sit back and look at all that’s changed, all that’s been accomplished within just four short years, and the way I was able to make somewhere I’d never been before a second home. This isn’t quite a “goodbye”, then, since I’m nowhere near ready to never see you again. It’s an “until next time”, whenever that may be. You were, you are, UMass. All my love,