Thanksgiving break came and went, and with our return to Binghamton temperatures began to drop and snow began to fall. Welcome to finals!

In my three years here at Binghamton University, Mother Nature has never failed to serve us with some nasty winds, bitter cold and precipitation that can be identified as snow, rain, hail and sleet simultaneously.

She’s a cruel lady, that Mother Nature, and she always chooses to let loose right before our education gives us the smackdown. During this time of year, we’ve all got more important things to worry about than frozen sidewalks.

The inclement weather isn’t the only indicator that our semester is racing to the finish line. There have been other signs. State Street has progressively become emptier; the abandoned bars are begging for students to take a study break and immerse themselves in alcohol instead of textbooks.

Pretty strings of Christmas lights can now be seen adorning houses around the area in anticipation of the culmination of the holiday season. Hanukkah has already passed, taking with it the happy, dancing flame of the Shamus and leaving us in the darkness of snow clouds and research papers.

This time of year is always bittersweet, with one huge part of me wishing that the torture would end so I could take refuge in my bed at home and resign myself to knitting and marathoning all of the television shows I forgot to catch up on during my busy semester.

The other part of me doesn’t want to leave my life in Binghamton, where I don’t need to empty the dishwasher for my mother and I can order pizza at 1:30 a.m. on a Friday morning free of judgment (but not from my poor student friends who will inevitably beg for some of my food).

My mixed emotions are especially high this semester as I look forward to spending the spring 2011 semester in Barcelona, Spain, where I will enjoy beach weather and tapas on the daily. It’s also where I will be when many of my friends walk for graduation, taking their first steps toward a life beyond Binghamton.

I’m proud of myself, because I chose to make the decision that was best for me. I have always wanted to study abroad; in fact, it’s one of the few things I have been certain about in my academic career, but I never considered that it would interfere with my social life. I’m going to miss my friends.

But just like them, I need to look to the future. I need to consider life beyond the confines of my pinhead-sized planet in Binghamton — I need to let the world in.

Instead of subjecting myself to a mental breakdown during this time of stress and despair, this year I choose to contemplate the big picture. Finals will get my attention for now, but I will survive Mother Nature’s fury and the wrath of my professors and emerge a citizen of the world, just like everyone else.

So while you spend time this week alternately procrastinating and grumbling about how evil your professors are, remember to keep things in perspective. Christmas lights will always be pretty and one final won’t make or break your future. Let the world into your planet of doom, and bear in mind that Mother Nature will eventually ease up on the wind chill and bloom into spring.