It’s hard to find my words, especially since I, like all our 2020 seniors, am writing from a position I never thought I’d be in. The early termination of my final year at Binghamton University has resulted in a lot of feelings I haven’t quite worked through yet, but it’s also given me time to reflect on my experiences here. Plus, it’s given me some alone time with my old blue house and the twinkling string lights of Chestnut Street, confirming that I feel lucky not just to have spent the last four years going to college, but to have spent them going to college in Binghamton, New York.

I’ve grown and changed in countless ways since freshman year, but sitting down to write this column, I feel less inclined to write about my journey than about what I’ve found here. Some of the happiest moments of my life have been spent sampling local honey and chatting with farmers, reading zines that were dropped in my mailbox, losing my breath at basement punk shows, walking home from First Fridays and taking in the colors of our impossible, unpredictable skies. My time here as an Arts & Culture journalist has introduced me to a city of treasures; every tiny, beautiful ecosystem is a reminder that our passions are more important than the numbers on our transcripts or our future paychecks.

The story of Binghamton, as you’ve probably heard it, is the story of many post-industrial towns: factories leave, jobs are lost, economies plummet. The story doesn’t end there, though, and when all is said and done, it will be a story not just of how the arts can rebuild a community, but of how passion, creativity and love define a community more than any statistic could. There is so much to love here, and there is so much love here. The Triple Cities assure me that art, at its best, gives us the impetus to love and be loved, to connect with strangers who seem a little less strange once a song is heard or a poem is read.

If you’re reading this as a current or future BU student, take it to heart. In college, you have access to resources you might never have again — use them to help this city grow alongside you. As much as all our student groups move us forward in a myriad of ways, our progressive activist groups, both on and off campus, are fighting to ensure that everyone moves forward, and I especially salute them. While activism is not the path for everyone, I hope every BU student understands that their foremost commitment is not to grades or money or acclaim, but to people. In my conversations as a journalist, I’ve learned you can make that commitment in a number of ways: through food, or music, or science, or knitting. My advice to you is simply to make it, and to make it fully. Make choices responsibly, think beyond your four years here and consider the unforeseen consequences of every bit of energy you put out.

In the words of a past Arts & Culture Editor, one who always approached the Triple Cities’ artistic communities with the enthusiasm they deserve, “If you love Binghamton, it will love you back.” The love from a community that nurtures and inspires you is the purest love in the world — give Binghamton the chance to bring that love into your life, as it has into mine.

To Molly, Mia, Milla, Gabe and Doug: Thank you for being my first friends here. I love you guys.

To the amazing people I’ve met in the Phi, the Food Co-op and Pipe Dream: Thank you for making my college years so hard to leave behind. There are too many of you to name, and I’m endlessly grateful for the support system I’ve found here.

To everyone fighting for social justice at BU and in the Triple Cities: Thank you for your courage and resilience. I am honored to share this community with you.

Finally, to all the folks making art in and around Binghamton: Thank you for being you, and, of course, for giving me something to write about.

Gabriela Iacovano is a senior double-majoring in English and environmental studies and is the arts & culture editor. She was an assistant arts & culture editor from 2018-19.