I was looking for the "American college experience." I found so much more.

By DIVA PAREKH | April 25, 2019

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COURTESY OF DIVA PAREKH

Parekh reflects on the community she found during her years at Hopkins.

About a week ago, I was sitting down in Brody Cafe interviewing another student for an upcoming feature about Earth Day in the News & Features section of The News-Letter. He explained that he and some of his peers were working on planting a butterfly garden outside the FFC. They were going to plant milkweed in that little patch of land so that migrating Monarch butterflies could stop and feed while making their long journey home.

Coming into that interview, I didn’t know anything about migrating butterflies. I had no idea that there was even anything we could do as students to help them and to support this little ecosystem. What these students were doing wasn’t life-changing. It wasn’t loud or splashy. They weren’t yelling into a megaphone. But in that moment, listening to the passion they brought to this project, it meant everything to me.

During my past four years here, I’ve had so many experiences like this and so many opportunities to talk to different people who are so unbelievably passionate about what they do. From helping survivors of sexual violence have their voice heard to giving out roses to stressed students on the Beach to helping first-generation students find the guidance they deserve — every single day I spend here I continue to be inspired by the things people do here. And I wish I could help with all of it — give them my time and energy to make a small pocket of our world a better place.

Something I truly appreciate is the opportunity that being a News-Letter reporter has given me to help showcase these efforts and these voices — even if I can’t help out myself. 

This is the last column I will write as an undergraduate student, and needless to say I’m feeling a little sappy. Very often, I’ve used The News-Letter as a platform to talk about negative experiences in my life and used writing to try and overcome them. But on my way out, on my last day being part of production night, I want to talk about the positive.

Coming to America from 7,943 miles away, I felt like I’d lost my anchor, like there was no one left to keep me grounded and to keep me from just disappearing. On my way here, I sat in the window seat of the plane, staring out the window dramatically playing “Leaving on a Jet Plane” with no idea how to feel. 

I don’t really know what I expected sitting there 30,000 feet in the sky. But I didn’t expect this.

Sitting here on a beautiful spring day trying to avoid the bugs flying around me, I remember the hard times I’ve had over the years — times when my friends have pulled me up and supported me, times when they’ve known something was wrong before I did, times when they’ve dropped what they’re doing to be there for me no matter how much work they had to do.

But more than that, I remember the complete ridiculousness. The times we’ve spent entire classes laughing like 13 year olds because a professor wrote the number 69 on the board. Times when my roommates and I have spent hours talking in the living room about our lives, exhausted but too lazy to go to our own rooms and sleep. The road trips when we’ve screamed old songs completely off-key but as if we’re the best singers in the world. The snow days over Intersession when we’ve watched movies for hours. 

I remember the entire days we’ve spent sitting at baseball games losing our voices, sitting on M-level pretending to study but instead obnoxiously reading Urban Dictionary definitions of words out loud only to have tables of complete strangers burst out laughing with us.

I could go on, but for your sake, people who read my articles, I won’t. 

At the end of it all, I just want to say thank you. I’m glad I get another year here to finish up my Master’s. To the people I know and love who won’t be here next year, I’ll miss you more than I can imagine. And to every single one of you — thank you for giving this five-foot-tall little Indian girl a home. I came here looking for an “American college experience,” but what I found was so much more than that. 

When I walk across that stage a month from now, I’ll be proud to have gone here not because of where we are in the U.S. News rankings but because of the people I’ve lived and worked and laughed with for the past four years since I first came here as a wide-eyed, jetlagged freshman. Somehow, it feels like a lifetime has passed — but also no time at all.

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