If life were a book, Union would be my favorite chapter.

In the beginning, we – the protagonists – set out from our hometowns. For some of us that may have been three miles away in Niskayuna, for others that may have been three thousand miles away in California. Still others set out from the cool mountains of Tajikistan or the beautiful coasts of Canada.

The biggest challenge in those first few pages was making friends in a new place.  I, personally, felt like I could hardly handle it. Would people “get” me? How would I fare without the help of my identical twin sister? Could I ever find a group as awesome as my childhood crew? I think for all of us here at Union the answer to those questions has been a resounding “yes.”

Union’s community is seriously unparalleled. I am actually a transfer student to Union. I did my freshman year at another college. My biggest issue there was that people didn’t want to get to know each other.  Students approached the classroom like airport security; they wanted to get through as quickly as possible, with as little eye contact as possible, and without losing any baggage.

During my first visit to Union I saw a world of difference. Students came up to me asking, “Hey, how are you?” “Who are you?” and “What can I do to convince you to come to Union?” For me, that was enough. And in my three years of being here, through the ups and downs of school rankings, through the pros and cons of explaining to strangers just what exactly constitutes “upstate” New York, I have never once regretted my decision.

I – we – made friends at Union. We made unbelievable friends at Union, friends who would rally after a long week to go out to a party with us, friends who would drop everything to pick up a pint of ice cream from Reamer and join us for a much-need night in, friends who saw us at our worst with our heads in the toilet, and friends who saw us at our best presenting at Steinmetz or getting that long-deserved “A.”

We made more than friends at Union. We trekked up to frat row searching for them, we spent brunches at West avoiding them. We had nameless regrets and passionate pursuits that just never panned out.  We met people who taught us more about ourselves, and we met people who taught us more about themselves. Some pages of our chapter are marked with tears, while others feel like the beginning of perhaps another chapter.  Regardless of who we met, regret, or forget, these characters added pages to our chapter that we should never tear out.

Our Union chapters feel like the awesome montage scenes from movies before the ultimate reversal; the scenes where everything is going right for the protagonist, where the camera flashes from one magnificent victory to the next. This is what our Union chapters have felt like.

Our Union chapters are littered with scenes of Saturday Springfests and runs that end with a healthy dose of ribs and reggae. Our chapters include parties at multiple places referred to only by numbers and we’ve seen more dirty basements and dusty attics than we should probably admit. We’ve spent countless hours meeting with professors and even more time camped out in our lovely library.

I have never had so much caffeine in my life. I have never spent so little time sleeping and so much time napping. I have never read so much and I have also never skimmed so much. I know how to make ten dollars feel like one hundred and have figured out my best meal-swipe-to-declining-dollars ratio. I still remember when I stopped accidentally referring to my professors as teachers and began accidentally referring to my old grade school teachers as professors.

We all remember the first time we were invited to bowling on Erie. We all remember our first theme house party and how we slowly but surely figured out what exactly the Minerva system meant. We remembered how hard we worked for that “A” and how hard we worked for that “F.”

Our Union chapters have chronicled us from our time as fearful freshmen to our glory as successful seniors and we have changed for the better in the process. We’ve learned more than molecular biology, supply and demand, or Russian grammar – we’ve learned about who we are and understand a little bit better just how exactly we fit in this complicated world.

Next week I am going to miss waking up in a house of musicians, foodies, pilots, and track stars. I am going to miss chatting with professors after class and brainstorming with administration. I am going to miss sunsets behind West and walking by our big, beautiful, breathtaking Nott every single day. I am going to miss it all.

I am not afraid of starting my job in July. I am not afraid of moving to the city or figuring out how to manage a real-world budget. I am not even afraid of leaving the classroom – something I so love – because I know Union has set us up to be life-long learners.

No. I am most afraid of leaving this community. Next week I won’t walk home and say hi to my neighbors. Next week I won’t dash to class and run into a dozen friendly faces. I won’t spend two hours talking with a professor and I won’t trot into a dining hall alone knowing I will easily find a friend to eat with.

And I think it is universal for us – this feeling of fear, of not really knowing how we are going to handle what comes next – but as we move on to the next chapter of our lives, as we dot our “I’s” and cross our “t’s” and turn the last page, it is important to understand something about our time at Union; despite its wonderfulness, despite its brevity, our time at Union will always be our time at Union. That chapter will always be a part of our story and it will influence how we move forward.

Now, protagonists, it’s time to turn the page.