By Alyssa Michalke
Saying goodbye has never been easy for me, and it’s challenging for a number of reasons. I’ve never been great with words, so I find it difficult to string together a group of words and phrases that accurately describe the emotions I’ve felt, the experiences I’ve had, the memories I’ve made, and the impact a certain person or place has had on my life. That short, two-syllable word serves as the closing statement in a chapter of my life, and as I abruptly realize the end is just around the corner, a wave of emotions hit me hard. Couple all of that with the uncertainty of entering a new phase in my life as I leave the comfortable familiarity of College Station and Aggieland, and it’s easier to understand why I dread saying goodbye.
Bidding farewell to a place that means so much to me is much more difficult than I ever anticipated. Aggieland has become a second home to me over the past five years, although it took the better part of two years for me to think of College Station in that way. Texas A&M was not at the top of my “dream college” list, and although my mom convinced me to don the maroon and white, I spent the summer leading up to my first fall semester questioning my decision. After school began and the stress from multiple areas of my college life began to mount, I wondered whether I had made the right decision. Although College Station was only ninety-odd miles from my hometown, those ninety miles felt more like a thousand. On the rare occasion I was able to go home for a weekend during my freshman year, I dreaded the hour and forty-five minute drive back to Aggieland. I left at the last possible minute every Sunday afternoon, reluctant to leave the quiet, relaxing town of Schulenburg to return to exams, stress, and demands from various sources.
There were multiple times I considered dropping out of the Corps and transferring to another college within the Texas A&M system. However, I always ended up putting off the paperwork to the next week, and inevitably, something would go well during that week, so I would shove the paperwork to the bottom of my to-do list as I survived another week in College Station. Ever so slowly, Aggieland was growing on me.
As I began my sophomore year, I had a different outlook on life as a whole, and more specifically, on my time in college. During my freshman year, I took each day for granted, and lamented when I was assigned more homework or my upperclassmen in the Corps held me to a higher standard than I thought was fair. With a year of college behind me and a little more maturity, I now approached each day as a privilege, an opportunity that relatively few people in this world have. I challenged myself to improve physically, mentally, and spiritually each and every day, not just for my own personal benefit, but in the hopes that my personal development would positively impact my fellow cadets and classmates. My love for Aggieland grew exponentially throughout my sophomore, junior, senior, and fifth year here at Texas A&M as I developed a greater understanding of what immense impact this university has on the world, and an appreciation for all that it has done for so many people.
Although I have a few short weeks left here in Aggieland, it’s time to start saying goodbye and thank you to a place that has given me more than I could have ever imagined.
First and foremost, goodbye to The Quad, a place that served as my home for arguably the most challenging, yet rewarding, four years of my life. I saw The Quad at 5:45 every morning as we began the day with physical training or military inspections, at 6:30 every evening as we rendered honors to our nation’s colors before eating dinner, and at 10:30 at night on the rare occasion we held Echo Taps to honor a fallen cadet. I’ve run around The Quad with a rifle in my hands and boots on my feet, I’ve marched around it with my fellow cadets as we first learned, and then taught, proper marching procedures, and I’ve met some outstanding individuals while walking to and from class. I’ve had many late-night and early-morning meetings with some of the hardest-working and passionate people I have ever met, and despite the lack of sleep and their busy schedules, their commitment to excellence and willingness to sacrifice their time and energy to further develop those around them never ceased to amaze me. The Quad will always hold a special place in my heart.
Goodbye to all the campus landmarks that have come to hold special meanings for me. There’s Duncan Field where our sophomores awarded us freshmen our Corps Brass at the end of a rigorous training session. There’s Blocker and the Mitchel Physics Building, where I often questioned my decision to become an engineer after a long, complicated lecture or grueling exam. There’s Simpson Drill Field where we played sports on Friday afternoons, and where I walked my Final Review in a cadet uniform. There’s the tunnel by West Campus Garage and the tunnel by Albritton Bell Tower where we conducted numerous physical training sessions, and where I came to truly hate those small hills and the sprint workouts devised by our upperclassmen. There’s Wehner on West Campus, where the Squad Platoon within the Ross Volunteer Company would practice rifle drill, spinning and tossing those practice rifles until our hands were bruised and numb. There’s Academic Plaza where I stood on multiple Tuesday nights to honor a fellow Aggie who left us too soon, where cadets hold a salute during the 21-gun salute and rendition of “Taps,” and Albritton Bell Tower tolls in memory of those Aggies we lost. There’s Reed Arena, where I took numerous physical fitness tests while in the Corps, attended four campus Musters, and had the privilege to practice and play alongside a group of amazing young ladies as a member of the Aggie basketball team. And finally, there’s Bonfire Memorial and an engraving of “The Last Corps Trip,” where I would go late at night to clear my head when something was troubling me. Whenever I pass these places on campus, these landmarks bring to mind all the incredible experiences I’ve had during my time as a student.
Goodbye to all the friends and mentors I’ve had while in Aggieland. I could write a short novel with the names of all that have helped and supported me over these past five years. You have challenged me to reach my full potential; you have taught me the tough lessons that I needed to learn, even though there were times I thought I knew it all; you have been a source of wisdom and advice when I was unsure where to go or what to do; you have shown me what true leadership, selfless service, commitment, and hard work look like; you helped me grow and develop from an anxious, quiet freshman into a strong, confident young woman that I never knew had the potential to exist. I can’t thank all of you enough for all that you have done for me, as my time in Aggieland wouldn’t have been near as special without you. As much as certain organizations and places on campus mean to me, it’s truly the people, and the Aggie spirit within them, that makes those other things so special.
And finally, Aggieland, thank you.
Thank you for all of the love you have shown me, even when I wasn’t sure College Station was the place I needed to be.
Thank you for introducing me to a group of people so special, so selfless, and so passionate, all of whom left a profound impact on my life.
Thank you for giving me another place to call home and blessing me with a huge extended family that I know I can call upon in the future if I’m ever in need.
Thank you for providing me five years’ worth of memories and experiences that I will look back on with fondness as I recall the people and events that made my time here so amazing.
Thank you for the best five years I could have asked for. I pray every night that I have worked hard enough and given back to Texas A&M, Aggieland, and all of those people I’ve come to know during my time here in return for all that this university and community has given me. Although I may be saying goodbye to my time in Aggieland as a student, I know that many more chapters in my life will still contain Aggieland, at the very least in remembrance and gratitude for all this amazing community has done for and meant to me.
Goodbye, Aggieland…and thank you. For everything.