‘And miles to go before I sleep’

By Malea Ritz

Courtesy of Malea Ritz
Courtesy of Malea Ritz

When I look back at my four years at the University of Massachusetts, I am in awe; I’ve accomplished so much, experienced so many things. I made Dean’s List. I tried out Greek life. I dabbled in a few different residential areas. I worked events at the Chancellor’s house. I traveled to Sicily for a class. I learned a new language. I lived in another country for four months. I became managing editor of the Daily Collegian. I attempted scuba diving. And my next big feat? I’m graduating.

It’s hard to believe it’s time for me to write a senior column. For the past few years, I’ve sat back and watched some of my best friends graduate and move on to bigger and better things. And whether I’m ready for it or not, now it’s my turn.

When it comes down to it, my college experience would have been nothing without the people I’ve shared it with. Many of my best memories have come from time spent with my friends in the Cance basement, SAA, PSP, the Townehouses and the Collegian.

Freshman year was a time of transition and adjustment. I spent most of the year trying to determine where I fit in amongst 22,000 undergraduate students. During first semester in Webster Hall, I spent the majority of my time studying, rather than socializing – an unlikely start to college for most.

Within the first couple of weeks, I dove right in to writing for the arts and living section at the Daily Collegian, writing mostly film reviews. Powered by coffee and pumpkin milkshakes, I achieved the most, academically, that semester. The following semester, I changed residential areas and moved into Cance Hall, where I spent nearly all of my time with my ‘Basement Katz’ and occupied most weekend nights with frat parties or frequent attempts at a good night at Diva’s. I pledged a co-ed honor fraternity, PSP, and joined SAA, a student and alumni event planning organization, with a focus on making my resume look as impressive as possible.

By first semester sophomore year, I was burnt out. I quit PSP and SAA, and instead focused all of my time on the Collegian and my social life, while saving a small amount of consideration for academics. I became an arts and living assistant editor at the Collegian and met one of my best friends there. From that time on, I spent more time hanging out at her apartment in the Townehouses than I spent in my dorm in Washington Hall. Between the rum ham dinners, quad parties, movie nights and the Snowstorm Halloween Weekend, it was hard for me to stay away. There, I met one of her next door neighbors, who would later become my boyfriend. Many other memorable nights were spent working on special issues at the Collegian with our section, along with the rest of the staff, working into the early hours of the morning, after we were long past any semblance of sanity.

Junior year was difficult at first. After I had finally moved to the Towenhouses, many of my best friends had graduated and left Amherst, and my boyfriend had left for the Navy. I turned 21 that year, but many of my friends were still underage by the time I had left at the end of the semester to go to Spain. With high expectations, some uncertainty and no friends to accompany me, I boarded a plane to Granada alone and hoped for the best. Four months and six countries later, it had come and gone faster than I could have expected. I had some amazing adventures surrounded by fun people.

At the beginning of senior year, I was still transitioning my way back into American life, but was really struck by how much I had missed UMass, my friends, my family and my boyfriend. I returned to the Townehouses, and Collegian, this time as managing editor. Although everything felt very foreign in the beginning, I readjusted quickly. My spring break was memorable; I had a great stereotypical “college” spring break in Panama City Beach, surrounded by my good friends from the Townehouses, past and present. Many of my favorite memories this year were spent with Collegian friends, both in the office and elsewhere.

It’s nearly impossible to explain to an outsider the logic behind my time there. Long hours, minimal pay and high stress don’t sound very appealing to most people. But in this windowless basement office, I wasn’t just adding clips to my resume, I was spending time with my best friends. Between the legendary ‘80s party, 4 a.m. post-production Route 9 Diner runs and getting to know everything about each other in the wee hours of the morning, I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything in the world.

It’s been an incredible journey. And looking back at my 18-year-old self freshman year, I’ve come a long way. And I have a lot of that to be thankful for due to my family. I could never have done it without their support and encouragement along the way and, for that, I am truly grateful.

It’s hard to leave behind a period of your life that is commonly referred to as “the best years of your life,” especially when you have a feeling it very well might be. There’s definitely something frightening about having no plans for the foreseeable future, but there’s also something exciting about it. Although nostalgic and sad to leave, I have faith that ahead of me await equally exciting experiences and adventures. ‘And miles to go before I sleep.’

Malea Ritz was Managing Editor of the Massachusetts Daily Collegian. She can be reached at [email protected]