Unless one is a truly horrible person, everyone deserves some sort of going away celebration. Last night, I had mine. My good friend Sydney organized a little festa as a "Welcome Back to School Italian Department/Goodbye Marina" celebration. Ok, to be honest, when you are the one leaving, the word celebration isn't necessarily the right word, but it my case it is because I realized something very important last night.
During the evening I was struck by how much I truly like the people in my department and how much I will miss them this year. We have not known each other very long and being in graduate school, especially at the PhD level is not like being in college. When you first going away to school, there are so many new experiences that bind you forever to the folks you are with, but when you proceed to graduate school, all that changes. Most people in graduate programs have lives outside of school, they do not live on campus or in some cases even near campus, and most people are pretty serious about going to school and not necessarily getting close to the people in the department. I am so happy to say that this is not true in the Italian Department at UNC. I think the people in our group go out of their way to get to know each other and find a way to bond.
Last year, I may not have spent enough time cultivating these relationships because I was always doing work or spending time with Tim (neither of which I regret), but now, as I am about to leave for a year I realize that the people in my department have actually accepted me and consider me one of their own, regardless of my mistake. To me, last night was not only a goodbye party, but an internal celebration for myself, because I realized just how rich the relationships and how wonderful the people are that I will be leaving behind.