Tight Gripped Goodbyes

I’ve read dozens of pages of fellow students’ “goodbye blogs” and listened to countless stories of people reliving their glorious college days. At the end of every story, you’ll find little tidbits of advice and takeaways for those who still have time left in their college journey – some practical, some fun – and maybe even hear some college regrets. I’ve laughed with these seniors and empathized with them as they mourned the loss of their college experience. However, I realized that my “goodbye blog” sounds starkly different than everyone else’s before me. Currently a junior at UNCW, I’m not bidding goodbyes to this wonderful university quite yet. Instead, I’m saying goodbye to my traditional college experience. Moreover, no advice from any alumni could prepare me for this departure.

Nearing the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, my college experience has taken a drastic turn in the span of four weeks. I packed up my dorm and turned in my key – no inspection needed – in one hour on a Saturday morning. The move-out weather was much more bearable in March than it typically is in May. No sweat, no fuss, no smiles. As I drove off campus with my car stacked high with boxes and bins, I made sure to take in every building, every crosswalk, every pesky speedbump. As I passed Leutze Hall, I audibly said a goodbye and turned to my boyfriend to express my petty sadness that I wouldn’t get to carry out my end-of-year tradition – one large mocha shake from Port City Java. He swiftly took a right to the closest PCJ in a resound understanding that college just wouldn’t feel like college for the next few months – and there was nothing petty about those feelings that accompanied that fact after all. With a mocha shake in my hand and car heavy with uncertainty, I departed Wilmington and UNCW with no real assurance of when I would return.


It’s been two weeks since that day, and the uncertainty remains heavy in the air. As the university transitioned to online classes for the remainder of the semester, I’ve found this new college life to be one that is much more difficult to manage, despite the convenience of attending class in my pajamas. The work is relatively the same, yet I’ve lost a real connection to the meaning behind it. Day in and day out, I reach a consensus that my enthusiasm and drive behind my work is directly related to the passion in the voices of my professors. Though I get to hear them via Zoom and other mediums, it’s simply not the same without the added jokes, pop-culture talk and Dr. Pullum asking me every Monday if I got married over the weekend. Maybe it’s not their passion alone after all that keeps me inspired, but rather these professors’ constant acknowledgment that the little things really are the biggest. They are the heart of the Department of Communication Studies and they hold us up well – and more than ever, I think they’re right about those little things.

My UNCW experience is entirely made up of a litany of little things. Beyond lectures, homework and exams, it’s walking in a torrential downpour to class, seeing the spring flowers bloom, airdropping funny pictures to random people in the library, having that extra shot of espresso and getting your whole class to beg Dr. Weber to give you those extra exam points via email at 2:00am (it worked). It’s the laughs, the cries, the stress and the joy – all with each other. I have to say goodbye to all of that for the foreseeable future. It’s a tight gripped, don’t-want-to-let-you-go goodbye, but with a hopeful “I’ll see you soon” on the other end.

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Keeley Brown, UNCW COM Class of 2021

Goodbye Friends Photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash