Here it is — my senior column, four months late.

When I first moved to Binghamton to start school at Binghamton University, I was constantly homesick. I missed the excitement of the city and my friends and family.

Now, I am deeply attached to Binghamton, so much so that I chose to stay after graduating this past December. I am currently working as an intake specialist at the Broome County Public Defender’s Office, a job that I absolutely love.

While I have learned an incredible amount from my classes, and have been challenged academically through my upper level Philosophy and PPL courses especially, my college experience was really defined by my engagement with student, community, and legal organizations.

I credit my community organizing experience with fostering my attachment to Binghamton. The first community organization I became involved with was Justice and Unity for the Southern Tier (JUST), which I am now the visitation coordinator for. JUST is a local organization that advocates for and visits with people who are incarcerated in the Broome County Jail.

Talking with people in the Broome County Jail showed me the most beautiful and ugly parts of Broome County. I have learned an incredible amount — about community organizing, mutual aid, subversive legal education and radical resistance — from people in the jail. I have also formed lasting friendships. The October before last, I met someone in the jail who is from my neighborhood in NYC and went to my middle school. I have visited him every week since. He is one of the most driven and intelligent people I have ever met, and he inspired me to pursue a career in law.

On the other hand, talking with people in the Broome County Jail has made me extremely aware of issues that plague Broome County and fuel its incredibly high incarceration rate — substance use, poverty and the lack of affordable housing and mental health treatment, among other factors.

Now, I am in the Broome County Jail almost every day conducting client intakes for my work with the Public Defender’s (PD) Office. I have become extremely familiar with Broome County’s criminal legal landscape and actors, and see it as a microcosm of many issues plaguing the United States’ criminal legal system. At the PD’s office, I have formed wonderful friendships with coworkers and I am constantly inspired by the dedication that our office’s attorneys have to advocating for their clients. My favorite part of my job is interacting with and learning from clients every day.

What living, working and learning in Binghamton has taught me most is the value of community and the different ways in which you can find it. I still love New York City — the pace, the excitement, the never-ending array of social, intellectual and cultural opportunities. But there is also such value in the smaller, slower-paced character of Binghamton.

Being a part of student organizations, including the wonderful Pipe Dream, has taught me to understand my positionality as a student in a community where many are locals. I have learned how to use the resources and privilege that I had as a university student, and now have as a former university student, to support local movements and shed light on pressing issues, always centering the voices and ideas of those who are directly impacted.

All of these experiences have made me feel like I have a meaningful role in the community here. I feel connected to people who are interested in the same work that I am, and I have gotten to know a network of powerful community organizations and activists. I have been lucky to participate in meaningful, and sometimes successful, advocacy efforts through these connections.

In addition to my love for Binghamton University, the community organizing network here, and my job, I love where I live.

I live in a yellow house North of Main Street on the west side of Binghamton. My neighborhood has character, and it reminds me of the city — people always blast music out of their cars, and when it’s nice, my neighbors hang out on their stoops and play basketball outside. Some of my best friends live in a big house right around the corner where lots of our friends hang out. There are constantly parties, concerts and pop-ups. Even routine things like cooking dinner or doing work become events, and I often joke that it’s a commune.

There are only a handful of bars, restaurants, and event forums in the Downtown area, but every time I go to one of them, I run into people I know. Living here has taught me that you do not need a million options of things to do to be entertained and satisfied – if you have good people around you, you can find joy in any activity.

Thinking about my experience in Binghamton makes me feel overwhelmed with gratitude. I have had the most incredible learning and growing experience of my life so far over the past four years. I am immensely thankful to everyone who has given me love and support, and I am excited for what is to come.

Doris Turkel was Pipe Dream’s Opinions Editor from 2022 to 2023. 

Views expressed in the opinions pages represent the opinions of the columnists. The only piece that represents the views of the Pipe Dream Editorial Board is the Staff Editorial.