I’ve walked through the empty Santa Clara campus every day for the past few months trying to avoid thinking about the word I’ll have to say too soon: goodbye. I remember when I needed to look at a map to find my way to Locatelli or Dowd; now, Santa Clara’s campus feels like a home I could navigate with my eyes closed. 

I walk past my freshman dorm where I learned to be independent, past the Bronco statue where I met for countless retreats and car trips, past the small classroom with those modern swivel desks where I took my C&I class, and past the Benson parlors where I met many of my friends. Practically every building and lawn invokes a memory of a person or experience that molded a little part of me. 

I usually say goodbye to chapters of my life by squeezing quintessential activities into the final moments, like when I forced down a freezing cold cup of gelato in the freezing cold rain on my last day studying abroad in Italy. But the pandemic has removed the traditional senior year goodbye rituals, so I’m left wandering the empty campus alone with my thoughts and the swaying palm trees. 

Reminiscing on the past four years, I primarily feel gratitude. I’m grateful for the professors and staff that challenged me to think in new ways and encouraged my learning. I’m grateful for friends with whom I shared wacky, whimsical, painful and joyful memories. Most of all, I’m grateful that Santa Clara has given me a fresh perspective on who I want to be in the world. 

I knew nothing about Jesuit values before stepping foot on campus, but now I deeply appreciate and want to embody the ethics-driven, service-oriented pursuit of contributing to the common good that Santa Clara emphasizes.

A big part of my college journey has been about following my curiosity and asking questions.   

At the beginning of sophomore year, I started a podcast called Voices of Santa Clara for fun. I wanted to learn from the unique and fascinating professors, students and staff on campus, and share those stories to inspire and connect the community. After over 90 episodes, I’m convinced that a genuine desire to learn from other people’s stories and perspectives is the first step to changing the world. 

Through the podcast, I got connected with The Santa Clara newspaper and joined the staff in junior year. As the opinion editor this past year, I’ve gotten to help publish dozens of articles on everything from state-led environmental action to laughter to woke capitalism to eating meat. I’ve also written my “fresh take” column exploring topics including meditation, friendship, homelessness and social media. I believe writing is one of the best ways to spread ideas, and I’ve loved seeing the diversity and passion of writers across campus represented in the opinion section.  

As an editor, it’s thrilling to watch a piece of writing evolve over rounds of editing to more clearly express its core idea and tell a coherent story. The staff members at The Santa Clara have been instrumental in this process—helping me grow as a writer and human, in addition to being kind and hilarious friends.

One fun aspect of the opinion section is that any thought or idea can be the seed of an article. There’s no need to report on a specific event or stick to the strict rules of a prompt. The creative possibilities are as limitless as your imagination.

In that way, I think college—and life—are kind of like the opinion section of a newspaper. Sure, some articles will work better than others. There’s always room for improvement. But mostly, the creative possibilities for your Santa Clara experience—and for the rest of your life—are limitless. 

Podcast guests have reinforced this lesson for me time and time again: there exist an infinite number of ways to live a competent, conscious and compassionate life. The journey to creating this life begins with an authentic hunger to explore, serve and continually question the status quo.

As I finish my quiet walk around campus and return home, I know that even when I graduate, the friendships and memories I’ve built will remain with me. The class of 2020 had to leave Santa Clara earlier than expected, but Santa Clara will never leave us, and we will never leave each other. Despite this fractured finale to our college experience, we can find hope in the individual and collective growth that we have experienced. Though the world feels like it’s crumbling, our future is bright.

I don’t like goodbyes—never have and never will. But goodbyes aren’t just endings; they are also beginnings and thank yous. I’ve heard that starting post-college life can be pretty fun. And saying goodbye provides an opportunity for me to thank the people that have supported and shaped me. So my goodbye to Santa Clara is complicated and bittersweet. I’m both sad to leave and excited to move on; but my heart will never stray too far from my years at Santa Clara.