The University of Guelph is a special place. Most people just see a gorgeous campus with friendly staff and students situated in an equally beautiful city, with an equally friendly population. But it’s much, much more than that. It’s hard to put into words, but I know it’s something I’ll never find anywhere else, no matter how far I travel the globe.
I spent yesterday at a conference on campus, surrounded by fellow students and colleagues, but more specifically, surrounded by friends. The enormity of the ramifications of me being done my undergrad didn’t sink in until the very end of the conference. We stood in a circle, telling each other what we felt they would offer the world as we all moved forward, and in that moment it came crashing down upon me. I was finished. It was done. No more classes, midterms, papers, exams, presentations, late-night study sessions, last minute paper writing, waking up early for course selection, anxiously awaiting the release of final grades, frantic planning and re-planning of future courses. It was all done.
I’m not a person who cries often. But yesterday, hearing the words of encouragement for me from these friends, I felt the unfamiliar welling of tears in my eyes. I stared pointedly at my shoes, wringing my hands, trying to focus on anything but that moment. It was no use, the moment was upon me, and the realization had sunk in – that was the end of my undergrad.
We finished the activity, had a very emotionally-charged cinnamon role hug (which, if you aren’t sure what that is, find out because it’s amazing), and began packing up our things. I spoke with a few people, hugged many more, and tried to stretch out the last instants of my undergrad. I finally made my way to my dear friend, and it was when I hugged her that it really hit home. I had so much to say, but all the words disappeared with one hug. I held on for a while longer, and then set out to take one final wander around campus.
Being a person whose life is constantly impacted by music, I turned on my iPod, put on shuffle, and put in my ear buds. Somehow, the shuffle-music spirits had me covered and managed to string together the perfect songs for my walk across campus.
One of them was the one I’ve embedded up above. While it’s a song most commonly associated with hard times, in this moment it meant something entirely different to me. It fit everything so well. I wandered around campus, which was relatively empty, given it’s right in the middle of exams. I walked the routes I’d walked dozens of times before, stopped to take in the buildings and savour the very essence that is Guelph.
I walked across an empty land
I knew the pathway like the back of my hand
I felt the earth beneath my feet
Sat by the river, and it made me complete
The parallels between the song and my wandering did not end there. As a result of some nasty weather this past week one of the many trees on campus had fallen over, rendering it essentially broken. It was a symbol of change for me. It’s difficult to explain, but that tree sits in a very distinct place on campus, and its disturbance really impacted students, myself included. No doubt if it were to be removed, its absence would be felt tangibly. Over the last five years, I have come to really love this place. I know in the years to come I’ll look back on my time here fondly, and probably search for any opportunity to return.
I came across a fallen tree
I felt the branches of it looking at me
Is this the place we used to love?
Is this the place that I’ve been dreaming of?
It was bittersweet, taking in the sights and sounds of campus one last time. It felt like the end of an era on the one hand, but on the other it felt like the company of an old friend. Guelph really is special. If you haven’t experienced it, then you can’t really understand it. It’s something only we understand. It’s somewhere only we know.
And if you have a minute, why don’t we go
Talk about it somewhere only we know?
This could be the end of everything
So why don’t we go
Somewhere only we know?
In a conversation after I’d finished my wander around campus, my dear friend responded to my mess of emotions:
That’s what Guelph does to you, it’s a powerful thing.
I know that in the years to come I’ll stay in touch with many of the friends I’ve made here. I’ll see them go out and change the world, have profound and significant impacts upon countless others, and grow as individuals and people. As clichéd as it sounds, despite how far we may go, how successful we may be, or how significantly we change, we’ll always have Guelph. It will always be that indescribable ‘thing’ that is Guelph that only we know about. It’s that somewhere only we know.