Posted by Andrew Wei (and the class of 2013)
It’s the first week of school. We’ve welcomed in a new class of freshmen, and with that, my own class of ’13s have become seniors. Over the past two weeks, students have been trickling back on to campus. The McDermott office is lively again. Our friends are returning from all over the world, filled with stories.
The thing about senior year is that, in several ways, it is The End. Not the end of friendships, nor the end of education — certainly not the end of meeting new people and exploring crazy new opportunities — but with a year left until graduation, it certainly feels as if we’re nearing the end of something.
No, we aren’t finished yet. But we’re way closer to the finish than we are from the start. It seems like a good time to reflect on the journey so far:
I can’t believe it’s been three years already.
This year feels so different than my first day of school three years ago. I know what feels different too: I’m comfortable. I know where my classes are, I know how things work on campus, I know who my friends are. The excitement of freshman year is gone. But I think there is something special about being in a place long enough that you are comfortable — it becomes a place that you can call home. And so I guess this year, I’m looking forward to all the new memories I will make before it’s time to leave ‘home.’
After nine months of being away from the UTD campus, it’s been exhilarating to be back. Despite my good fortune (and planning) to meet up with five other seniors while studying abroad, there is nothing like being all back together. From late night Whataburger runs for Honey Butter Chicken Biscuits to making homemade Honey Butter Chicken Biscuits, I’ve missed these friends.
During my freshman year, I remember how I constantly pushed myself to try and join new things. While it was fun in its own way, what I’ve really enjoyed throughout these years were the times spent with many of my comrades as we struggled and laughed together. The bonds we have formed have helped keep me sane in the most stressful of times and made for the greatest of hangouts. I also got really good at Smash.
I remember freshman year how we all sat together at meals. Fifteen-plus people crowded around some pushed-together tables in a dining hall that no longer exists. We hung out almost every night, watching movies and playing Super Smash Bros. As we each went off to travel the world, our relationships with each other changed just as our campus changed. Instead of constantly hanging out, our quantity of time grew less while the quality of our relationships grew. Many of us have best friends in the program, people we have lived with for years, traveled and explored with. Certainly we did not all keep up — it would be rather impossible for our large group to all be the closest of friends. But a fondness for each other remains, as seeing another McDermott in your class as a senior is a reminder of the many happy memories you have built over the last three years.
I am simultaneously excited for and hesitant about graduation. On the one hand, it’ll be exciting to see where everybody ends up going. On the other hand, it will be sad as we start to move away from each other.
I honestly have been dragged kicking and screaming into senior year. I can tell you with complete sincerity that I would stay here, surrounded by the best friends I have ever met and supported by the best program I could possibly imagine, for another year. Or three. But I’m slowly coming to realize that only by graduating and making something of myself can I really fulfill the program’s mission. McDermott works with us as college students, but its goal isn’t to just churn out a bunch of graduates with high GPAs, a ton of volunteer hours, and amazing travel experiences. The real way we honor all we’ve been given as McDermotts is to enter the wider community and change it for the better, and to build lives for ourselves that would make Mrs. McDermott proud. I tell myself these things with the idea that by May I’ll actually be ready to leave. After they wrestle me into my cap and gown, shove that diploma into my hand, and push me across the stage, I have faith that I’ll decide to be a big kid and move on. But until then, I’ll be eating waffles and stealing candy in the McDermott office, failing at Smash Bros in the boys’ apartment, laughing at neuroscience jokes with Priya, and doing P90x with Andrei. I’ll be going to movie nights and birthday celebrations and will be enjoying every single moment I have left with these people and in this program. My years at UTD have been some of the best in my life, and don’t think I won’t enjoy the heck out of the nine months I have left.
Freshman year you get the exciting/embarrassing/frustrating “firsts,” but I think the bookend senior “lasts” are far more important. Some “lasts” are great, like “last time incessantly reminding each other to finish McDermott surveys on time,” or “last time sleeping on the floor of your room for a week before finally having the courage to lug your bed up a flight of stairs.” Some will be bittersweet, like “last time freezing during an ice day sledding,” or “last countdown to the Game of Thrones watch party,” but I’m dreading the truly sad days and separations that are ahead this year. Don’t worry though, in preparation for the sadness to come, we seniors are gathering our strength together through frequent boba outings. (Somebody should seriously keep track of how many consecutive days we end up drinking boba tea.)
I’ll never forget my first birthday at UTD. I was heartbroken that I wasn’t going to be home with my family. Part of me wanted to skip classes and drive myself home, but instead I stuck it out and went through my usual day. I arrived back from class to find my dorm full of my amazing friends who — following McDermott ’13 class tradition — smashed cake into my face to start off a surprise party. I was completely happy I was where I was, surrounded by people who have continued to fill my life with fantastic memories for the past three years.
The past three years have been filled with incredible moments — sometimes routine and sometimes unexpected — when I realize how #blessed (thx Lauren) I am by the people surrounding me. From brie nights and Game of Thrones marathons to eating oranges on the steps of Sacre Coeur Basilica in Paris at daybreak, I can’t imagine sharing such moments with anyone else. The start of senior year is an expected, yet still unpredictable mix of emotions; the people sitting in my apartment have spent the past hour rewriting and erasing these blurbs, trying to adequately describe the joy of knowing each other as well as the sadness of ending our time together. It feels like we’re stopping just when things are getting [really really] good.