I'm lucky

"What does The Spectrum mean to you?"

If you had asked me two years ago, I probably would have told you it was just a way to pass time while I try to figure out what I am doing with my life.

If you asked me a year ago, I probably would have said it was a résumé builder that would give me a little experience in a field I was kind of interested in.

But, now, with no papers left and my undergraduate career over, it means so much more.

I have already come to terms with the fact that there is no way I can even come close to verbalizing how much this place means to me.

Yes, I know the irony of a journalist at a loss of words is absurd, but that isn't a testament to the skills I've learned here. Instead, it's a testament to the magnitude of the friendships, accomplishments and experiences I made.

But I'll do my best.

I always hated going to school. My mom would literally have to drag me out of bed sometimes. It was the worst.

That was until two years ago.

I joined The Spectrum on a whim. I was a recent engineering school dropout and was looking for something - anything - to give me a direction.

Ever since, the highlight of my week has been heading into 'work' in 132 Student Union on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Whether it was going to be a long day writing a piece that still needed a lot of work or a light news day where I would just hang out, I was actually excited to go to school for the first time.

I found my place here. Without question, it was the single greatest decision I made in my collegiate career.

Before, I would have constant breakdowns thinking about my future, and the sheer cloudiness of even a few months down the line scared me. I was in a dark place. But, as cheesy as it sounds, The Spectrum saved me.

Now, I have direction. I have the skillset.

But, most importantly, I have the confidence to move forward.

Just two years ago, I was a newbie to the world of journalism. But now, because of The Spectrum, I have not only gained tons of experience, but a passion for journalism has grown inside of me.

UB doesn't understand this yet, but it will. Nestled inside the Union, behind the everyday noise and traffic of students congregating in the campus' hub, lies a gem. A gem that goes unappreciated and unnoticed and I don't understand why.

We are a research university that prides itself in student achievement. This newspaper - at a school without a journalism major - and the students who run it have achieved some truly amazing things, like winning 13 national awards in four years and sending alumni to some of the best journalism schools and news organizations in the country. We do this without funding, or support for that matter, from the university.

And this independence is at the core of the experience.

The paper is entirely run by college students - some of the hardest-working college students on campus - and most of them are doing it for free. Because of the shared goal and mutual reliance, I've gotten close to many of them, and that has made this two-year journey even more special.

Sure, proximity probably plays a huge role in the reason for these strong relationships, but love, support and drive play even bigger ones.

Everyone at the paper knows how much they mean to me, but there is no way I could write this column without thanking the people who made this experience particularly special.

News desk was my home for two years, and I couldn't be happier with my team this year.

Joe Konze Jr., my desk editor/meatball last fall, for having my back during a volatile time for news desk. Your insanity was able to keep me sane and your determination, motivation and passion continue to inspire me.

Amanda Low and Madelaine Britt - or Manda Bear and Mads/Big Red - for an amazing desk I could always rely on. I have known you two for such a short time, but I am so grateful for your support and friendship. I am so proud of your work and improvement this semester. And I'm excited to see the wonderful things you two are inevitably destined for.

Ben Tarhan and Brian Keschinger, for always having plans for me on the weekend and for always being there if I ever needed someone. Your talents are nothing short of incredible and seeing your passion for computers fuels my passion for journalism. I always thought of us as the three amigos. And I am going to miss having plans when none were ever made.

Max Crinnin, Jon Gagnon, Eric Cortellessa, Chad Cooper, Jackie Shi and Owen O'Brien, for keeping it real and keeping it fun. But, most importantly, for keeping it real fun.

Aline Kobayashi and Meg Weal, for always having my back, especially when I needed it most. You have become two of my best friends, and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your love and support.

Matt Parrino and Carey Buyer, for showing me what the paper will mean to me two years down the line. Those Tuesday and Thursday morning debates were some of the highlights of my Spectrum career. You taught me the importance of loving what I do and that the word argument doesn't have to have a negative connotation. P.S. Lost still sucks.

My Senior News Editors Sara DiNatale and Lisa Khoury, for teaching me everything I know about newswriting. You guys believed in me when I couldn't find any reason to believe in myself. And I will be forever grateful for the foundation you built for me and the constant support you always had for me.

And Aaron Mansfield, for teaching me what leadership is supposed to be. It's hard to believe that you are younger than me, but you will always be that big brother that saw potential in a kid with no experience and took a chance on him. This experience would not have even come close to what it was if it weren't for you and the knowledge you instilled in me.

The past two years have been more important to me than I ever could have imagined them to be. I am truly honored to be mentioned in the same breath as my coworkers -scratch that -my friends. The Spectrum will always have a special place in my heart, and I am finding it very hard to actually let it go - Frozen reference most definitely intended.

But with all the sadness and reminiscing, I can't help but realize that I'm so lucky.

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye hard." - A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

email: sam.fernando@ubspectrum.com