Our Bobcat family will always welcome us home

photo-3Until this year, Homecoming never meant all that much to me. It was just another weekend—another football game. It was just a lot more spirited than the rest.

I didn’t really consider the meaning it would have this year until I was walking through Baker, taking in all of the decorations; I realized this was my last Homecoming as a student. This semester is packed with lasts. And that’s just it—it is my last. And no, I’m not ready for that at all.

I’m jealous of the freshmen. I’m jealous that they get the next four years to love and explore Ohio University and Athens as I have for the past three and a half. And I guess I don’t really know what being a Bobcat has meant to me. What hasn’t it meant? It’s meant everything. I will remember every mile between here and home. I will memorize the way the bricks look as the sun sets around campus. I’ll remember those sleepless nights—good and bad. I’ll remember the friends who have become family to me. And I know that despite the memories I will take away from this place, I will never be ready to go. My glory days have been here, at this university, and I will always call it home. I have from the very beginning.

As much as I want to say “do this” or “do that” and live vicariously through the incoming freshmen I so badly wish I could be, I can’t create a list that will quantify the experiences they will have here on this campus.

Ohio University will mean different things to different people over the course of their four years on this campus.

I always thought there was a list of things that I needed to accomplish or a type of person I needed to be before graduation in order to get the full “Bobcat experience.”

But the thing is, there is no set list of things that a Bobcat needs to know or do or experience by the time they’re done here on these sacred grounds.

I’d be wrong if I told them that there was a “right” way to be a Bobcat. I’d be wrong if I told them that they needed to go to a basketball game, eat Goodfellas Pizza at 2 a.m., or explore The Ridges. By all means, I hope they do those things, but what I really want is for the experience to be theirs. I want them to own it and I want them to shape the next four years of their lives all on their own, so that when they begin to prepare for a life outside of Athens, they will have more fond memories of this place then they can even count.

I spent this past summer working at another university—an opportunity afforded to me by fellow Bobcats who looked to their alma mater to fill an internship position. While writing articles geared toward freshmen, I reflected a lot on my start at Ohio University.

I remember that hesitant excitement at orientation. I remember that confusing ache when I bid farewell to my parents. I remember that restless tug toward the future walking to my first class. But most of all, I remember the endless possibilities. Sure, I was scared, but it was the most thrilling time of my life. I know good things are to come as I approach graduation, but that beginning is one that will never again be matched.

And sometimes, while working this summer, I wondered if I made the right choice in picking Ohio University. And without a shred of doubt, I know I have.

That’s what being a Bobcat is all about. It’s about knowing that however you choose to fill four years at Ohio University, you wouldn’t change a thing. It’s loving a place in a way you never thought you could. It’s wanting summer break to end to get back to your Bobcat family. It’s referring to Athens as “home” subconsciously within the first semester.

It’s more than academics. It’s more than the organizations. It’s more than the campus.

It’s home. And your family will always welcome you home.

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