I have always had a hard time saying goodbye. I get caught up in everything I should have done, said and experienced. I struggled a lot with the thought of graduating — I thought I would have more time before I had to leave. Even now I’m writing this column the day before it’s due (something I learned from my dad writing his sermons every Sunday morning only a couple hours before church) expecting to have all the time in the world to finish it.

My college experience will always be discolored by the COVID-19 pandemic, which abruptly ended my freshman year. In my low points, I still feel bitter — as though I was robbed of my chance at a normal college life. After the fourth or fifth time I heard my professors tout the benefits of Binghamton University’s 4+1 masters program (“The University didn’t want to offer it initially because they were worried about losing money — that’s how good the value is!”) I finally succumbed. I had been denied the four years of college I was owed, and here was my chance to make it up. Of course, my sophomore year, the COVID-19 year, the “missing” year, is when I joined Pipe Dream.

I initially joined because I loved photography and needed an excuse to get out of my dorm. When I saw Sid, the Photo Editor and an acquaintance from high school, promote the Photo department on Instagram for the upcoming general interest meeting (GIM), I jumped on the opportunity. My class schedule was fully online and asynchronous, so I eagerly took any photo assignment Sid offered. As I would later find out once I took over as Photo Editor, that is a rare quality for a contributor to have. My participation earned me the (uncontested) position of Photo intern in my second semester at Pipe Dream, followed by the position of Assistant Photo Editor only a few weeks later when the previous assistant quit, and before I knew it, I was going into my junior year as a Photo Editor and a fully-fledged member of the Pipe Dream Board.

I was adamant when I joined the newspaper that I was not a journalist and that I did not care to be involved in the production side of the paper. I laughed it off when Sid told me I could move on from the Photo department — “You could always be managing editor next year like Ariel.” Maybe he knew what he was talking about.

I wish I could say that I had a change of heart — that Pipe Dream made me fall in love with journalism and quit engineering — but that did not happen. I did not have the quintessential college experience of changing my major three or four times before begrudgingly realizing I had to stick with something. I came into college as an engineering student, and I have not regretted my choice at all. But what I found at Pipe Dream was a sense of community and leadership — something that I could dedicate myself to outside of class. I have loved my time here, and I have learned incredibly important lessons and made valuable friendships.

I am not a good enough writer to be able to convey what this newspaper has meant to me. I staunchly refused to write a single article during my time here — maybe if I had more practice, I would be able to find the words I needed. I could talk about the late nights and being forced out of my comfort zone. I could talk about how I have grown as a person. I could talk about how my work here broke me out of the sheltered Manhattan mentality that Binghamton cannot possibly have anything to offer. I could talk about how frustrating it got when the paper ate up all of my free time in my final semester, while so much else was changing in my life and I was meeting new people and forgetting others. I would not exchange this experience for anything. This paper left its mark on me in so many ways.

In the early 2000s, one of my professors made the discovery that all camera sensors have their own unique “fingerprint.” I have taken more photo assignments than I can count during my time here at the newspaper — way more than I could ever remember — but when I ran a random lacrosse photo through my sensor fingerprint detector and it revealed that it had been taken with my camera, I felt like I had left my own mark that would last forever, even if no one else could see it.

I don’t have the time or the words to say thank you to everyone who made my college experience what it was. I can only hope that I have been able to show them how much they mean to me in other ways. I am incredibly grateful to all the friends I have made at BU — even the people I have lost contact with will continue to have a place in my heart.

That being said, I cannot end this column without mentioning Hamza. The dedication you have to this paper cannot be overstated. Seeing how much time and energy you put into restarting print and basically rebuilding the paper from scratch will continue to inspire me to try harder in everything I do. It has been an honor working alongside you.

Finally, to Bella and Lia, I know that you both are incredibly capable, and I cannot wait to see what direction Pipe Dream goes under your leadership as you take over where Hamza and I left off.

Harry Karpen is a senior majoring in computer engineering and is Pipe Dream’s Managing Editor. He was Photo Editor from 2021-22.