Maria Arozamena, Illustrations Editor

Post-March 2020 was full of “unprecedented” moments. It was the year when shirts and pajama shorts became a fit, thanks to online meetings. Second, there was the unprecedented frequency of hearing the word itself — it was everywhere. Then, there was this scary but wonderful decision I made as a 19-year-old: hopping on a plane in the midst of a global pandemic to start college on the other side of the world.

I am writing this piece in Franklin’s small courtyard: the same courtyard I walked into four years ago, wearing double masks and lugging a suitcase. It’s wild to see how much has changed, and yet how some things remain wonderfully constant. A long stroll through campus brings to mind so many pinpoints on the map of my evolution — from a wide-eyed freshman to a soon-to-be graduate.

I’m sure looking back at the past four years fills most of us with a mix of nostalgia and introspection. This campus holds a treasure trove of memories — some we fondly cherish and others we’d rather sweep under the rug. Like that time when I slowly turned bright red in a lecture hall when the professor asked me a question I had no idea how to answer or the countless times I waved back at someone who wasn’t actually waving at me. Yet, it’s those awkward moments and failures, the ones we tend to sweep under the rug, that have been integral to my growth. I’ve stumbled, tripped over hurdles, and fallen more times than I could count. Through it all, I’ve had my support system of friends, mentors, and faculty who have been there to hold my hand and help me back on my feet. Without them, I wouldn’t know how okay it is to fail — because without them, I wouldn’t know how many lifelines I had to help me get back up. 

Along the way, I’ve witnessed friends charting their own paths, some with unwavering focus and others with a zigzagging path that surprises even themselves. I prided myself on being their personal cheerleader and was lucky to find some of my own. I, personally, was a zigzagger. Who would’ve guessed that, for my last college exam, I’d be sitting in a quantum mechanics final surrounded by friends? Certainly not me from 2020.

Last week, I celebrated an early birthday with friends. I looked around to see everyone who left a mark on my college journey and was hit with a realization: I’d go to great lengths for the people I hold dear, literally and figuratively. It’s not easy to bid farewell, but I prefer to see it as a temporary parting of ways — a logistical separation if you will.

No matter where life takes us next, I will keep texting, calling, and sending handwritten letters (let’s be real, my inner romantic isn’t going anywhere) to all those who’ve carved out a cozy corner in my heart for themselves. Even when dialogue fades, I’m sure little things in life, like the sound of a really loud radiator or the way cherry blossoms smell in spring, will always be there to remind me of them. 

Stepping onto Yale’s campus for the first time, I could never have imagined the profound impact this place and these people would have on my journey. We lit the path for each other: in friendships, in academics, in trust, in heartbreak, in perseverance, in disappointment … and for all the highs and the lows, I’ll be forever grateful.