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Counting the “Lasts”

I moved into Plassmann Hall freshman year with a new shower caddy and a naïve set of assumptions about college living. I half-expected to easily bond with everyone in my hallway and stay friends with them through senior year. I thought my parents and I would Skype every weekend and that I would visit my high school friends at college throughout the year. When I moved in, thinking I had college living already figured out, I also brought a bad bout of homesickness. The longest I had been away from home was for summer camp when I was twelve and even at eighteen, I was inconsolable for weeks after my parents dropped me off; college felt like a glorified summer camp, except my parents wouldn’t be coming to pick me up at the end of the week.

Yet no one else seemed to be struggling with the adjustment. I remember laying in my small twin bed the first night after move-in, staring up at the cinder block ceiling and wondering how everyone else seemed so well-adjusted to the college experience. It felt like the other freshmen in my hall had perfected unlocking the sticky dorm doors and the uncomfortable routine of wearing flip-flops to the communal showers. It was a series of “firsts” and I struggled to adjust, even after finishing freshman year to the point where I talked about transferring from Siena. Everyone else had found their college groove and I thought I was too far behind to catch up.

I started college feeling insecure and uprooted from everything familiar, but now as my four years at Siena come to an end, I find myself shopping for a graduation dress, submitting final papers, and counting the sentimental “lasts” on my fingers — is this the last time I’ll sit in Casey’s before my morning class? Is this the last time I’ll put a blanket down on the quad on a sunny afternoon? Is this the last late-night study session I’ll have in the library? Everything feels loaded with the weight of the impending end, and it’s not so much a countdown to graduation or a series of “lasts” but a countdown to goodbyes.

In a few short weeks, I’ll say goodbye to all the dorm buildings I lived in, even if the memories of the broken shower stalls and drunken revelries in the hallway aren’t the fondest. I’ll leave behind the 2 a.m. closing shift in the library and daily breakfast sandwiches from Casey’s. I will part ways with the food in the dining halls and the indolent days spent on the quad. I will have to say goodbye to the people I met during freshman orientation, the roommate I have lived with since sophomore year, the faculty who have pushed me to achieve my academic best — all the meaningful relationships I made in-between orientation and senior week. It will be a goodbye to the ease of college living and, finally, a goodbye to the place that allowed me to grow and call it home for the past four years.

It’s hard not to feel sentimental as the final weeks of senior year draw to a neat close. As we go through the motions of handing in final projects and paying our diploma fees in preparation to graduate, take the time to reflect on the moments that have shaped our collective four years. So until the day comes where we don our caps and gowns and walk across the stage as the class of 2019, I will continue counting the “lasts” on my fingers and enjoying these small moments as they come, even if the goodbyes feel heavy and bittersweet.