This stupid thing called graduation

“As sad as I am right now, I know that this is exactly what I wanted two years ago”

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By Sara Abdelouahed, Assistant Podcast Producer

As I write this column, I am sitting in the journalism hub, looking out over the campus pond. The sun is shining gently through the clouds, and I’m overcome with a sense of nostalgia for this campus.

It feels like I’ve been back in Amherst for years and a month at the same time. I know that I’m not ready to say goodbye just yet. The last two years of virtual schooling don’t feel real.

Somewhere in the back of my head, I keep thinking that this can’t be it. I’ve just met some of the most wonderful people this year. To think that we’ll be departing the University of Massachusetts in two short weeks is frightening.

The two and a half semesters of online school went by in a hazy blur. I don’t think I’ve processed them yet, and I’m not sure if I ever will. My mental health was at an all-time low during quarantine, and it affected every aspect of my life. I woke up feeling anxious and I went to bed the same. The days were a never-ending cycle of the same overwhelming feelings of dread, panic and exhaustion.

My junior year began in the fall of 2020, and I hesitantly decided to continue writing for the Collegian’s news section. I had only started writing for the paper the previous fall, and only a handful of stories came out of that academic year.

I almost quit the Collegian during my sophomore year. After an accidental slip up on my end, two people that I interviewed threatened to sue me. It scared the hell out of me, and I thought I wasn’t cut out to be a writer.

The fall of 2020 marked the start of the news section’s beat system, where writers were divided into smaller groups to focus on certain areas of coverage at UMass and the surrounding area. I signed up for the “social justice, politics and international news at the local level” beat on a whim, thinking it would be interesting.

I’m forever grateful that I did.

My beat leader, Claire Healy, put in so much time and energy to make sure the writers in her section had the opportunity to cover the stories they were passionate about, and that was incredibly evident in the thoughtful discussions that came out of our weekly meetings.

Suddenly, I found myself spending hours on Zoom with my fellow writers, chatting about story ideas, boredom in quarantine, things we missed about Amherst and everything in between. As soon as the Zoom call would end, I found myself looking forward to the next meeting.

The Collegian saved my college experience. It gave me a reason to keep pushing myself to be a better student, a better community member and a better friend. I was inspired by the work ethic and creativity of those around me, and as cliché as it sounds, I had a reason to keep trying.

In a corner of my childhood home, I experienced the most wonderful collegiate friendships that a student could ask for.

Today, April 27, UMass smelled like freshly laid mulch. It’s only 53 degrees, but I’m sitting outside, watching hundreds of students hurry on to class, mingle with their friends and grab a bite on campus.

There are a million things I could have written about in this column. The people, the stories, the stress and the excitement that make up the Massachusetts Daily Collegian are so special. I am in debt to these people for the wonderful advice and memories they have shared with me over the last three years, whether virtually or in our new home in the Student Union basement.

To Saliha, my first and closest friend at the Collegian, thank you for pushing me out of my comfort zone. While I can admit took us three times longer to write an article than it should have, it warms my heart to know that I’m walking away from this all with you still by my side. Good luck next year, and congratulations. You’ve earned this.

Sophie, thank you for leading the news section with such courage and poise. You motivate me to be a better journalist, and it’s been so amazing growing so close over these last months. You’re going to do such amazing things.

Max, thank you for hiring me onto the staff. You’ve taught me what it means to be a storyteller and speak from the heart, and I’m immensely thankful. Your talent and passion will take you far, and I can’t wait to see.

To any non-seniors reading this, cherish every moment of your college experience. Embrace the good, the bad and everything in between. This is a time for growth and exploration, but it won’t always be easy. Remember that college is full of surprises, and you never know where you’ll find the next great adventure.

To my fellow students at the Collegian, it has been the greatest pleasure getting to know you. You all have bright futures ahead of you.

This stupid thing called graduation feels like rain on my parade, stopping the fun right at the best part. As sad as I am right now, I know that this is exactly what I wanted two years ago. I wish I could go back to my sophomore year self and tell her that come senior year, I would have something that would be so difficult to say goodbye to.

So, here goes nothing. Goodbye, Massachusetts Daily Collegian. Thank you for everything.

Sara Abdelouahed was an Assistant Podcast Producer. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AbdelouahedSara.