A Senior Farewell: Thank you UMass for teaching me about myself

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A Senior Farewell: Thank you UMass for teaching me about myself

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One thing I’ll always be appreciative of the University of Massachusetts Amherst for, is that it has helped me answer the most important question that everyone should ask themselves at some point in their life: Who am I? I’m not sure I can fully answer that question, but I’ve learned so much about myself over the past four years, and it’s helped me grow so much as a result.

I know a lot of people also say they mature a lot in college. Many assume it’s because college is the first time in our lives that we don’t live at home. This is true, however there is more to it than that. During our childhood, two major influences shape who we are: our parents and our hometown friends. Our parents try to mold us into versions of themselves, and our hometown friends usually come from a similar environment. When we come to college, we’re exposed to so much more.

UMass may not have a reputation for being a particularly diverse campus, but I know I’ve met people from all different backgrounds and perspectives. There are people who are very religious, and others who are atheist. People here who come from families that have more money than hair on their head, and there are others who were homeless when they graduated high school. There are people here who have never been drunk, and others who can drink 20 beers a night. When you meet all these different types of people, it becomes easier to figure out your own personality.

Freshmen often get stereotyped for being immature and naive, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t the poster child for this stereotype. Coming from California, and a high school with under 500 students, I often felt like a lost puppy my freshman year. It felt like an endless amount of clubs to join, people to meet, and majors to choose from. I was way out of my comfort zone and it seemed impossible to figure college life out.

While that sounds painful and awkward, and believe me I had more than a few awkward moments, I am grateful for every minute of it. When you’re forced to leave your comfort zone, you have newvexperiences. These experiences are where memories are formed, friends are made and wisdom is gained. Sometimes you know when they happen, like when you study abroad or join a new club. However, they often happen in mundane moments when you don’t even realize it. This could be like the time you and your buddies came up with an inside joke while waiting in line for Antonio’s at midnight, or the time you bonded with that roommate who you thought was a  psycho, during that snow day on Halloween freshman year. It’s these small moments that help make all the stress of college life worth it.

That’s not to say every moment was perfect. One of the most notable differences between graduating high school and college, is that when you graduate college you spend a lot more time reflecting. I never felt like I had much control over how much I enjoyed high school, so when I graduated I tried my best to stay in touch with friends, but other than that I never really looked back.

You have more of say in what you get out of college. This freedom often comes with mistakes and regrets. Judging from conversations with friends, I think I can speak for most seniors in saying that we’ve spent countless hours beating ourselves silly with questions like “Why did I break up with her/him?” “Why didn’t I study harder for that exam?” or “Why did I eat at Frank when I could’ve gone to Hamp or Berk?”

So for me at least, that’s the toughest part about graduating. It’s having to accept the fact that you have regrets about things that you did or didn’t do, and you don’t get a chance for a do-over.

At the same time, mistakes are part of the learning experience. So even though it’s tough to deal with the mistakes I made, I know I’ve grown from them well. And fortunately we still have three-quarters of our lives to learn from our mistakes.

So for all the years of student debt I’ll be in, do I think UMass was worth it? It sure was. I didn’t just learn how to find a derivative, or how to write a sappy farewell letter. I learned about life and that is priceless.

Email Zack @[email protected], or follow him on Twitter @zacktobin1.

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