It wasn’t until last month that I realized how much I’d miss my senior friends. I wasn’t thinking about graduation or senior capstone projects or thesis day. Something else sparked a feeling of loss, almost.

I remember packing up my belongings on the last day of finals last year. My dorm was hot and a dry breeze blew through the window, flowing through the fan next to my bed. I had my suitcase packed, my duffle bag filled, container after container stacked on my floor. I had two other bags packed as well. (These two weren’t going home with me just yet.) Before I could go home and relax for the summer, I was to go on a camping trip with people I didn’t really know all that well, the team of Orientation Leaders (OLs) at Arcadia.

I remember loading my things onto the bus and taking a seat next to my friend, Brittany. My stomach wasn’t quite knotted, but I was definitely nervous (per usual with me). I didn’t know what to expect when we got there, so I popped in my headphones and let the sounds of Nicki and Rihanna take me away (don’t judge).

Before I knew it, we had arrived, and the activities were underway. I went into the trip with a mixed mindset: I was indifferent to the experience but wanted to meet new people at the same time. As the two-day trip progressed, the team of Orientation Leaders grew closer. Most knew one another already, but the rookies (myself included) began to feel a sense of belonging—something I didn’t quite expect.

After those two days, I left that camp with new friends. Actual friends—not the ones you meet once and just pass by later without so much as a nod of acknowledgment. We shared a bond.

I finally made it home, but the summer flew by, and it was once again time to assemble the Orientation team for the fall semester.

We arrived a week earlier than the rest of the students (besides the resident assistants) to begin our intensive, all-day training (some of which I spent laying in the sun, if we’re being honest). The bond we formed months prior faded a bit, but once we all came together and the activities began, our relationships were as they had been before—real, strong, and meaningful.

When you spend days on end with people (and I’m not exaggerating, 17 hours most times), you really get to know them. And that was the case with me and many of the senior OLs. I made so many new friends and have been lucky enough to experience Orientation with them (so much so that I live with one of them now). They showed me the ropes, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

But now as graduation rolls around, I’ve begun to realize how much their friendships mean to me. It sounds cliché, I know, but there’s something about Orientation that forges a different kind of friendship. One that means something.

So to my senior friends I say this: Getting to know you was one of the most fun experiences of my life. You made those long, loooong Orientation days worth every bit of exhaustion. You should all be proud of your theses and all the work you’ve put into them. I can only imagine how relieved you are to be done with school work, but part of me hopes you’ll all miss it here as much as I’ll miss you.

Good luck.