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The Hardest Goodbye of Them All

The first day of orientation in August of 2011, my parents and I drove onto campus and were greeted by excited students jumping up and down with blue and orange pom-poms. Helpful upperclassmen immediately helped to move my bins, bags, lamps and rugs up to Vedder 4NW and my smiling OA, who had already written me a postcard over the summer, was waiting for all of us freshmen to arrive.

After thirty seconds of being at Bucknell, my nerves about transitioning to college were already melting away. After settling into my new digs, my parents and I decided to take a walk down 7th Street to check out the bookstore before they said goodbye. At the intersection of 7th and St. Catherine, an open-top Jeep full of excited seniors, blasting feel-good music and laughing with one another, saw me, and saw that I was obviously a freshman.  “Hey!” one of them called out. I looked up, but before I could say anything back to these intimidating upperclassmen, the same one said: “Welcome to Bucknell!!” The other seniors cheered, I smiled, and the car pulled away as the music faded. My parents looked at one another and then down at me and said, “M, you’re going to be just fine here.”

Looking back, one of the main reasons I applied to Bucknell was because of the palpable, kind-hearted energy I felt during the campus tour. I got the sense that people worked hard, but weren’t overly competitive and that teachers were demanding, but not crazy. My hunches were correct, and from day one I have loved Bucknell University.

I attribute this amazing experience to the people who comprise this community: my professors, fellow peers, staff members, and most important, my friends. It is absolutely bewildering that four years have passed as I currently sit in Bertrand attempting to do the impossible: to reflect, in coherent English language, on my Bucknell college experience. Ultimately, I want to thank Bucknell for making it so hard to say goodbye.

Certain diseases have what physicians refer to as “insidious onset,” meaning that they come on slowly, without obvious symptoms at first, so that the patient is not aware of the illness.  There is no official disease or syndrome that results from the overwhelming emotion that comes with graduating from college, but if there was one, I think it’s safe to say that it would be one that emerges slowly.  Early signs include extended Sunday night dinners that last for hours on end, strange butterflies in your stomach at a late night you know will be one of your last, and being unable to prevent a smile from spreading across your face as you walk across the quad to your morning class, taking in all the beauty that is Bucknell.

One of the most important lessons Bucknell has taught me is that it is not what you’re doing that’s important, it’s who you’re with. Most recently, I was reminded of this truth while jumping up and down to an old King Harvent song in a run-down, Natty Light soaked house at 1am on a Wednesday, surrounded by my sweaty peers, some of whom were my best friends and others which I had never seen in my life.  Demonstrating the strength of the Bucknell community, no one cared that disparate groups were thrown together – we were all with some friends, we were all Bucknellians, and were all having a good time. As the chorus blared “dannnncin in the moonlight! Everybody’s feeling warm and bright!” and everyone sang along, I thought to myself, Uh-oh, this is probably one of the last ever times it will be socially acceptable or even possible to do this.

There are many great aspects of Bucknell that make it an awesome place to attend college, but one of the things I see as a strength is the fact that we members of the Bucknell student body don’t need much to entertain ourselves. Living in Manhattan this past summer made me miss Bucknell more than ever. Sure, one can get dressed up and buy an overpriced cocktail at a swanky bar, or dance to bumping techno at a trendy club, but I recognized that I was considerably happier wearing my sneakers in a booth at the Towne Tavern, dancing on St. Catherine, or even sitting in the caf for lunch with my best friends. I am someone who very much needs her alone time, though throughout my college experience I have never felt lonely.

To be perfectly honest, I am terrified to graduate.  Relatively speaking, college is an extremely easy and fun place. For the most part, our responsibilities as college students require going to class and acing exams, running clubs on the side or scoring goals on the field.  For the most part, we have autonomous control over our schedules. We live in a comfortable and closed community, and have numerous resources at our fingertips.

The thing that scares me most about graduating is knowing that I will not be a stone’s throw away from all of my friends. Since freshman year, I have been fortunate enough to have a great crew of people I can depend on and trust, who know me inside-out, and who can put a smile on my face whenever.  On the one hand, we frequently hear that social media makes it easier than ever to stay in touch. On the other hand, we millennials are also blasted with the message that social media is in fact making us lonely, that we do in fact need geographical proximity, and physical touch, and face-to-face interactions to create and maintain these bonds.

It saddens me that I will not be able to have slumber parties with my girlfriends any day of the week, take casual walks to the Freez, or even start the day off by watching an episode of 30 Rock if I’m feeling lazy and don’t have class until noon. When I go out, I will not be surrounded by friendly faces, and I will also not be able to be home within a 2 minute time frame when I choose to call it a night. I will not be able to sit at my favorite table on the second floor of the library overlooking Academic West, and I will never Super Saturday again.  I will not be able to get ready and share clothes with all of my best girlfriends, and will most likely never shop in Walmart again for a themed register outfit. I will no longer be a part of Her Campus Bucknell, never nominate another campus cutie. I will be emailing bosses and not professors, and instead of going to fraternity formals, I will likely be going on going on real, adult dates.  Lastly, I will never again be able to take lengthy Sunday sunset drives around the beautiful countryside of Lewisburg, listening to music with the windows down, swapping stories and sharing concerns amongst friends.

Andy Bernard from The Office once said, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” These past four years will no doubt be some of the most memorable of my life, and I will always be able to look back on the fond memories I created.  

Even though a pit forms in my stomach when I think about graduating, I cannot thank this place enough for equipping me with the confidence, skills, and strengths needed to be thrown out into this “real world” people speak of.  While I am sad to leave, the future is exciting, and I refuse to believe that these will be “the good old days,” because we are far too young to have the best years of our lives behind us. We have been blessed with having been able to attend Bucknell, but also to have our entire futures ahead of us.  We may not be a stone’s throw away from all of our best friends, but we will be entering vibrant new communities that will offer a variety of new experiences and opportunities for growth.  Perhaps what is most exciting about graduating is knowing that we will find a way to apply the skills that college has taught us towards a meaningful purpose.

As we graduate and enter the real world, I hope we Bucknellians create futures for ourselves that are outside of ourselves. We may not live with our best friends, but rather we will have our own families. Furthermore, even if we are hundreds of miles away from campus, we will never not be a part of the Bucknell community. I hope that I have had a positive impact on a community that has taught me so much, and equipped me with the skills and wisdom I need to enter the real world, successfully reach goals, and form meaningful relationships. My wish for Bucknell is that incoming students experience the same welcoming, fun-loving environment that I got to, that upperclassmen in Jeeps will continue to say hey to the awkward freshman walking with her parents, and that Bucknellians will continue to entertain themselves with the joys of friendship, hard work done well, beautiful sunsets, and the occasional pulled pork sandwich.

Margaret is a senior at Bucknell University majoring in psychology and economics. She is a campus correspondent for Her Campus Bucknell, a member of the women's squash team, and spent last semester abroad in Rome. She loves all kinds of music from Michael Buble to old-school hip hop, Kiawah Island (SC), Oprah magazine, crossword puzzles and going out to leisurely weekend brunches with her friends.