How did we get here? I cannot comprehend the fact that I am about to graduate, even as I’m writing this. I remember reading last year’s seniors’ columns and wanting never to have to do anything so corny and personal in a public forum, but Tommie’s kind of making me, so here I am.

That’s the first thing I want to impart to the youngins out there thinking that they’re so far off from graduation—it’s closer than you think and you’re not going to have it all figured out by May of [insert your graduation year here]. But I’m starting to realize (or I’m starting to delude myself) that that’s okay.

These past three years at Trinity have been super-awesome. This coming from me is kind of sort of especially significant because I ran away from Texas as quickly as I could when college came around. I started off at New York University in New York City. I applied to Trinity the first time around but refused to go on any visits or talk at any great length with the representatives who I got the opportunity to meet, much to my parents’ dismay. They loved the idea of me staying in town for college, which only made me want to move away more (they rock, by the way, for supporting me tirelessly throughout my collegiate years). I am so glad that I did, because when I realized that NYU wasn’t the right fit for me, I knew exactly the things that were missing and found that the school I’d essentially ignored during my college application process (despite the fact that I liked all of the brochures and information they sent my way) was actually the perfect fit for me.

The supportive environment where literally every one of our professors take an interest in our collective and individual successes, the administration takes the time to learn students’ names so that they can greet us by name around campus, and advisors really want to advise us, (if we’re willing to take the time to talk to them about anything other than our registration times and schedules for upcoming semesters…), is not something that every undergraduate institution prioritizes.

So that’s the second major thing: recognize what an amazingly supportive community this is and take advantage of it. As several of my professors continue to remind me the closer graduation looms, outside of this university, no one is going to care about any of us or our successes in the way people do here. Seriously take advantage of all this place has to offer and do cool shiz.

The students here can be pretty amazing, too. I was sort of terrified about how close-knit everyone was when I arrived as a transfer student sophomore year, but goodness people stopped and talked to me and asked me about myself around campus. Which is something that, for the record, I actually don’t handle all that well because of my naturally, wonderfully awkward personality, but in retrospect it was sincerely appreciated because I finally felt like I was part of something that I could affect in some major way, as cheesy as it sounds. Super glad I rushed (and didn’t depledge… I was so angsty back then) and ended up in Alpha Chi (shout out to all my purple ladiez).

Also really happy that I took Mass Media even though it was at 8:30 a.m. because my roommate wanted us to have a class together (and the likelihood of that happening again with her being pre-med and me being so humanities-focused was low) and followed up with Media Interpretation & Criticism, because I figured out I wanted to be a communication major; similarly, I’m grateful I took Lit Methods with Dr. Fisher because it sort of kicked my ass in the best way possible which confirmed that I wanted to be an English major.

I’m super glad I joined the Trinitonian staff and found another great group of people to hang out with and correspondingly knew more about on-campus happenings; happy that I participated in Momentum as a senior after missing dance for the rest of my college experience. I’d recommend doing all the things. Rocky Horror, theatre performances, frat parties, lectures, performances, study abroad—all seriously things worth attending and participating in. If your department has a holiday party, you go to that holiday party and mingle with your professors (they’re adorable and so cool for taking the time out of their schedules to attend). If you have the opportunity to go talk to a professor about his recent interest in beekeeping, you go check out the hives. If you’re able to be on the first list of people who have access to the new campus dog’s sign-up, you sign up and walk Jurgens around campus.

I’m really bummed to be leaving Triniland behind, but at the same time, I’m really grateful that I have reasons to feel like I’m leaving something magical behind: the overwhelming nostalgic emotions I felt walking to class this past Monday morning came from the experiences I have had here and the people who I’ve grown up with over my time here. So here’s to you, Trinity, for surprising me and affording me awesome opportunities to be a student, to hang out with some really cool people, and to do things that have helped shape me and prepare me for experiences beyond the hill.

Lauren Wilks is graduating with degrees in Communication and English.