Super senior year: a blessing in disguise

By Kate Evans

I came to the University of Massachusetts in the fall of 2007 looking forward to many things; none of them involving academics.

I was ecstatic to be away from my parents and their rules, to make my own curfew, come and go when I pleased and answer to no one. Rooming with my best friend from high school, I came to UMass without much fear; I had a partner-in-crime to make new friends with, a guaranteed date for every meal at the dining commons and someone to memorize the seemingly-endless campus with, or at least as much as I could (how do you navigate Morrill, again?). Lucky for me, my exceptionally organized freshman-year roommate had the world’s greatest memory – she reminded me which days my upcoming exams were. She peer pressured me into staying in on Thirsty Thursdays instead of going out. If my life was a meme, it would be conspiracy Keanu, and he would be saying, “What if I didn’t really select my roommate, and my parents were behind it the whole time?”

I went on like a lost puppy for most of that year – er, next few years. I managed to pass all my classes with one tiny exception (who really needs to know witch history, anyway?), make long-lasting relationships with a close group of girls, date a couple worthwhile (and a couple not-so-worthwhile) guys, create endless memories to laugh at over the weekends and have an overall “normal” college experience. It wasn’t until the summer before my senior/junior year (fall 2010) that I realized I was a little lost. Sure, I had floated along college without any major speed bumps. But I still hadn’t found that one thing that made my experience worthwhile and left me feeling proud of my accomplishments.

In addition to feeling slightly out-of-place, I had also been suffering from a chronic illness since August of 2006. With the symptoms of which getting increasingly disabling as time went on, I was forced to take a semester off my sophomore year and enroll as a part-time student upon my return. The emotional and physical pain and suffering that accompanies my illness is without a doubt the most difficult thing I have ever had to deal with in my life – which many people have no clue of, because it is invisible. So I could not have been more grateful when something crossed my path that helped me balance out the depression with happiness.

A lifelong interest in writing and growing curiosity about the Massachusetts Daily Collegian helped me decide that getting involved three years later would be better than never. So after several weeks of deliberation, I located the Collegian newsroom in the basement of the Campus Center and went for it. With sweaty palms and a pit in my stomach, I found myself speaking to someone who would later become my editor and friend.

From September of 2010 on I wrote at least one article every week throughout the academic year on anything and everything arts-related. I interviewed the creators of “South Park” – Trey Parker and Matt Stone – over the phone, I reviewed a ukulele and yoyo performance in Northampton, I covered the first Sisters on the Runway fashion show at UMass, attended a Sex Study College Tour and wrote in detail about sex toys, conducted an interview with NECCO about Sweethearts Conversation Hearts for Valentine’s Day (did you know the “marry me” heart is the most requested?), covered the opening of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” at Cinemark, gave Tucker Max’s second book “A**holes Finish First” a fairly poor rating, scored free drinks at the Grad Lounge for writing a feature on it (I refuse to call it the uPub), interviewed “Free Willy” screenwriter Tom Benedek in person and even wrote about (and sampled) delicious shots.

For the first time in my academic career (and life), I was feeling proud of myself and encouraged to further pursue journalism. Picking up a copy of the Collegian in the morning before class and seeing my words published has been one of the most rewarding experiences I could have ever have taken part in; it led me to get an internship at my hometown newspaper (The Ipswich Chronicle) in the summer of 2011 and get staff positions at the Collegian this year.

But my journey certainly hasn’t been all work, either. I’ve met some of my best friends in the past year. When all my friends graduated last May (on-time), I was worried going into this year that I would be alone and somewhat miserable. Instead, just the opposite was true. I met and grew close with some of the best friends I know I will ever make, and I have them to thank for making me the happiest I have been in a long while. To my friends of the Townhouses, the Collegian, Mill Valley, Hadley and my family (who I now appreciate more than words can express) – thank you for all your support and for helping me through my bad days — I love you more than you know.

I would also like to take this small paragraph to thank my sister. Hurry up and graduate so we can move in together in some fabulous city and have our own, real-life version of “Sex and the City.”

So although I’m sad to leave UMass, the Collegian and my friends, I thank whatever higher power is up there and my lucky stars that I returned for a fifth year. It showed me that there is still hope for me to make something of myself, and that there’s a great, big world of beautiful people out there waiting to be met.

I have no current plans for post-graduation, but you know what? I’m okay with that. I’ve figured it out in the past, so now I’m sure I can do it again. And until then, it’s time to celebrate.

Kate Evans was an Assistant Arts Editor and Copy Editor for the Collegian. She can be reached at [email protected].