My first time seeing Mount Holyoke was when I arrived for international student orientation in August of my first year. What I felt when I drove through those gates is something that I will never forget and, as I stepped out onto campus, I knew that I had arrived to the place where I belonged.
From the beginning, I knew that I wanted visual mementos for myself of Mount Holyoke in all its enchanting colors and forms. From the lush greens and saturated blues of the summer, to the stunning warm hues of the fall, the majestic frostiness of the winter, and back to the soft greens and pastel pinks of the spring.
I began taking photographs my very first day here, and now, as a senior, I can proudly say I still exasperate my friends when I stop them in the middle of our walk to dinner in freezing temperatures to take a photo of just how perfectly those icicles are hanging from the frosty Chapin Hall window emitting warm light.
Coming from Amman, Jordan, I was used to seeing light snow once or twice a year, but that did not prepare me for what it would be like here. I remember my first snow during October break when I had decided to stay on campus. I switched my pillow to the other side of the bed in order to face my window and watch the snow fall all throughout the night. The next morning, I ventured outside into a magical world, and with everyone gone, the transformation felt even more exceptional. To me, Mount Holyoke had always embodied Hogwarts, but that day, I could not deny it had morphed into Narnia.
The snow is not the only thing that takes my breath away in the winter. The temperatures I’ve experienced here have also been staggering—quite literally. I've often found myself petulantly muttering “It’s below zero degrees.” I usually only remember to hastily add “Celsius, not Fahrenheit” when I see visible panic on my friends’ faces.
It’s now below zero degrees Celsius again, which means only one thing in my experience: winter is officially here, and finals are quietly approaching. You can feel the effects of this around campus, in bundled up forms huddled together outside for warmth, in the overflowing library carrels, and the visible increase of hot drinks consumed daily, however that may be possible. But with all the stress that the impending winter and finals impose, there is also a blanket of warmth and nostalgia which subtly settles over campus.
The fairy lights of the gate are twinkling again, and the frostiness of the outside world makes each nook and cranny in every building all the more intimate. This year, the nostalgia is profuse. As a senior, I think there is a delicate awareness that these mystical transformations are definite markers of the swiftly passing time. You inadvertently realize that this might be one of the last times you study by the common room fireplace as wind roars outside, or the last time you wake up to see Skinner Green engulfed in a mesmerizing sea of fog, or the last sunset that’s this exact stunning shade of pink.
These realizations have been slowly accumulating since Convocation, but at this point in the semester, it becomes impossible to ignore them. That’s why between my Architecture studios, English seminars, thesis work, and art museum tours, I find myself somehow carving out time every day to rediscover Mount Holyoke.
As class ends and I begin to rush to my next commitment, I often find myself slowing down and find my feet guiding me to longer less direct routes. I find myself walking Upper Lake trail, or lingering on Lower Lake bridge, or even exploring the never ending wonders of the library. I remind myself that this is real, because once I step out of those gates after Commencement, Mount Holyoke will effortlessly feel like a dream.
Within these contemplations, I realize that this campus which still takes my breath away years later is so special because it’s the physical vessel to everything else that happens within these walls. That comforts me, because I know that the true magic of Mount Holyoke is what it has taught me, and how it has transformed me. That is something I can and will carry with me wherever I am in the world.
As I sit by my window and watch another rainfall, I am moved by the love I have for this place. I try to etch Mount Holyoke into my memory, to take part of it back with me, because I know that when I graduate, I leave part of myself with Mount Holyoke.