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Because of this place: Looking back at four years in Oxford

By Britton Perelman, Managing Editor

Graduation is in less than two weeks.

If you're anything like me, that sentence sends your insides scrambling.

I don't know about you, but I feel like I'm constantly stuck in panic mode.

I panic that there's not enough time left, that I still have too much to do, that I haven't done enough already. I panic about the "last" time for things and the fact that I never figured out how to get to the roof of Alumni Hall or swam in the fountains behind Shriver. I panic about saying goodbye. And then, on top of that, I worry that I'm panicking too much.

A wave of nostalgia and longing hits me every time I walk across campus. I remember everything and I don't want it to end.

This place, these people ... there will never be a time that this exact group of people will be together again.

For four years, we've called Oxford "home."

We've done the icebreakers and group projects. We wrote the papers, pretended to read the books and procrastinated on everything for as long as possible. We discovered Google Drive and then immediately wondered how we ever survived without it before.

We lived in the dorms and complained about the bathrooms and the dining halls. The food was never good enough, but that never stopped "family dinners" on weekday nights.

We moved off campus and into houses with names that are too clever for us to have come up with ourselves. Some of us left the country, others never left Oxford.

There were too many nights in King and not enough Uptown -- or maybe it was the other way around. There were nights we knew we wouldn't remember and nights we never wanted to forget.

We made friends who will be in our weddings, and others we'll probably never see again. We fell in and out of love with people and things and ideas. At some point, we each figured out what we're most passionate about.

And whether we acknowledged it or not, we did it all together. We did it all here.

This town, this little, red-brick-filled, middle-of-nowhere Ohio town brought us all together. It's because of this place.

That's what gives me comfort when I see the bright red graduation gown hanging in my closet and think about that day in the too-near future when I'll throw my cap into the air.

Even though we might be leaving, Class of 2016, we'll always have Oxford.

No matter where we go after this, there is something that will always keep us together.

My last year was also my sister Alison's first. And through some amount of coincidence and irony I'll never fully understand, she was randomly assigned to live in the same room I did during my freshman year. Tappan Hall, 205.

When Alison and her roommate moved in nine months ago, my former Tappan roommate, Kara, and I tagged along to help.

We hovered like overprotective parents as Alison checked in downstairs and then went up the stairs to the second floor. Suddenly, all I could think of was the hug Kara gave me in that very hallway on the first day we met. She hadn't even known me then.

We were both tearing up when we turned the corner, walked down our hallway, and stood in front of our old room.

Neither of us ended up being much help to Alison -- we were too busy reminiscing. About Friday afternoons watching "Scandal" and that time the coffee exploded. About stuffed animals and Zoo Tycoon and Gilman the Fish. About vacuums and Mama Odie and refrigerators that sounded like jet engines.

We talked about the day we knew was inevitable, but weren't ready to accept yet, and how each member of our group would act once the caps and gowns were on and we were all about to walk across the stage. We both agreed that we'd be the only two crying.

"I wish I could go back and do it over again knowing what I do now," she said.

I agreed. I still do.

Sitting there, watching Alison unpack and organize, all I could see was Kara, laying in bed, eating, and watching TV. And there I was, sitting at my desk at the end of her bed, typing away until all hours of the night.

So much had changed already, but that room was exactly the way Kara and I left it three years ago.

From the second we walked in the door of Tappan, an instant, too familiar feeling washed over me. The one you get when you're somewhere that clearly hasn't changed, and you have.

I realize now that it's the same feeling I have when I walk across campus every day. These red brick buildings haven't changed in the last four years -- I have.

It's because of this place -- this beautiful, constantly changing but always-the-same place -- that we can see how far we've come.

I take comfort in knowing that, when I leave Oxford in a few weeks, it's not going anywhere -- I am.

No matter where we go after graduation, Oxford, Ohio, will always be here. Because of this place, we'll always have somewhere to call "home."