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Courtesy Of / Jazilah Salam

I grew up in the small community and attended a small high school in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where I saw the same group of people everyday until I was 18. When I came to Barnard in September 2017, to say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. I decided not to join any clubs that first semester, to give myself enough space and time to get used to living across the world from my family, my friends, and my home. While I appreciated the time that that allowed me to adjust, by the end of my freshman year I didn’t really feel like Barnard or Columbia was “home.”

By the time sophomore year came around, it felt like everyone around me had their “thing,” and I was missing out. I tried out multiple clubs during this time but never felt passionate enough to actually join one. In the end, I tried out Spec even though it was never really at the top of my list; the horror stories of people staying up late in the office and having the publication become their whole life made me hesitant. But ultimately, I decided to apply anyway because what better way to feel more a part of the community than to join an organization that reports on and keeps up to date with the University?

For someone who wanted to learn more about the community and help students like me who were struggling to find their place in college, Spectrum seemed like the perfect fit. However, if I am to be honest, at first, Spec didn’t really feel like a community or family to me. I was shy, nervous, and intimidated by everyone there. Nevertheless, I was determined to love Spec in the same way that I saw so many others love Spec. With that in mind, I went through the shooting process to become a deputy editor.

I began to feel that sense of community and love when I was told that I was the only person in leadership at Spectrum. I started to reach out to people throughout the organization asking for support or if I could meet with them for coffee to discuss leadership strategies. Some people even sent me kind messages of their support. Slowly, I grew out of my shell and felt comfort in this network of people that I realized I had to support me. In total, it took me a year to feel like Spec was the community that I was promised at the beginning.

Of course, even then it wasn’t easy. Looking back at all the late nights editing articles, leading and attending meetings, Spec really was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I stuck with it because I loved being a part of Spectrum. The entire section had a mutual understanding that we were in the same boat and that we needed to stick together to stay afloat in this large organization. We took care of one another and stepped in if someone had too much on their plate. And I loved the work that all the writers produced, because we collaborated, ideated, and got excited about every article that we published. Most importantly, our friendship transcended the walls of Riverside Church—the connections I made were what I had entered Spec searching for.

Everyone comes into college looking to make it the perfect experience. As a first-year, I envisioned my future self in 2021 saying that I made the most of my time here. As I look back at my last four years, I think the best answer to that would be that I tried my best to make the most of my time here. Everyone comes into college eager to make friends, pick the perfect major, and join the right clubs. It’s easy to get caught up with academic achievements, internships, and socializing at Columbia and think that that is what makes our experience.

While these things can and do matter to an extent, it’s important to remember what someone told me right before I came to Barnard: College is intimidating, but remember that no one else knows what they’re doing either.

I think that what makes college college is that we are all trying to figure life out. And it’s in this process and journey that we can all unite under a shared Columbia experience. It’s not as normalized as it really should be, but everyone has gotten rejected from internships and clubs, received poor grades, felt like they didn’t have enough friends or that they were just in over their head at this University. It’s important to remember that what may seem like setbacks are truly just stepping stones.

Earlier this week my friends and I joked that we had ‘caught the Columbia blues’ as we were reminiscing about our time here. I think that the process of catching the blues, the process of struggling to find our place here, was what made us nostalgic. Because, for me at least, it was the journey of that struggle that makes me proud as I graduate from this institution.

Acknowledgements:

To Jane, Ariana, and Lina: Thank you for loving Spectrum as much as I do and for being amazing friends. I would never have made it through all the late nights, weekends, and breaks without you guys. Thank you for listening to me complain, ramble about crazy ideas, and for being shoulders to lean on. If it weren’t for you three, Spectrum would have never grown and become what it is today. Thank you for sticking to Spectrum even when we were the only ones who were a part of it. I was so happy that we all ended up in this tiny section together. I don’t think I would have loved Spec as much as I did if it wasn’t for your friendship. Also, thank you for keeping me in the group chat so that my old senior self would still feel like a part of Spectrum!

To Spectrum 143: Thank you for welcoming me and being a nurturing, safe space as I navigated both Spec and Columbia.

To Spectrum 144/145: When you were going through the interview process, I was stunned at how brilliant and passionate all of you are. I texted Jane, Ariana, and Lina immediately afterward to tell them how lucky we were to have such talented new writers. Thank you for making my Friday mornings so lively and fun. I can’t wait to see where you take the section.

To future Spectrum Speccies: Service journalism is important! Sometimes it may feel like we are not the most important section and are overlooked, but trust me when I say that people are grateful for our content. We’re here to help students go from feeling like outsiders to people who genuinely are a part of a larger community. We all know that college is hard, so it’s important for us to give people a space to laugh, connect, and turn to when in need.

To all Speccies I’ve worked with: It was such a privilege learning from all of you. I will forever be in awe of your talent, intelligence, and perseverance. I am so proud to have been a part of this organization among all of you.

To Shubham and Karen: Thank you for believing in Spectrum and in me. Thank you for replying to all of my panicked text messages. Thank you for guiding me when I truly felt like I had no idea what I was doing as I learned how to lead a section. Most importantly, thank you for going above and beyond by giving Spectrum the opportunity to become the section that it is now, even when you didn’t have to.

To Sarah and the 144 copy team: Our section would not have been able to survive without you. You are literally the backbone of this organization. Thank you for your patience with and kindness toward those of us who aren’t as talented with language as all of you are.

To Roxane: You really didn’t have to set up weekly meetings or constantly redo our newsletter, but I was so grateful that you did. I always looked forward to our calls, and thank you for giving Spectrum so much individualized attention.

To Olivia: Best. Photo. Dep. Ever. Thank you for making Spectrum feel less isolated. You didn’t have to show up to every single one of our sections weekly meetings or even help come up with content. Thank you for investing so much effort into our humble section and for staying with us even when you took the semester off.

To Ray: You are so talented, thank you for blessing Spectrum with your illustrations even when you weren’t assigned to our section or when I asked you to illustrate something last minute. You made our articles look beautiful.

To my friends: You always reminded me that Spec was not my life but thank you for letting it be my life anyways. Thanks for reading over my articles when I was a nervous trainee, listening to all of my rants, supporting me when I was overwhelmed, and not getting mad if I hopped onto a Spec call in the middle of hanging out with you. Most importantly, thank you for being my family when mine was thousands of miles away.

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