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Column: Thank you, UConn, it's been a great ride

By Carmine Colangelo
On April 29, 2013

Sum up your entire UConn experience in 1,000 words or less. That is about as easy as bear hunting with a butterfly knife.
Here goes nothing.
I would first like to start off by saying thank you to anyone who has ever read one of my articles over the last three years, it's nice to know somebody besides my mom reads my writing. For those of you who did not, unfortunately for you, once I become a semi-adequate professional writer, you will not get the pleasure of critiquing my new stuff by saying it is just as bad as my old stuff. The joke is on you.
Only 107 words so far, this going to be tougher than I thought.
I would like to think that my UConn experience was original because my five years on this campus came during a transitional period for the university. I enrolled as a naïve freshman in 2008 and I am leaving in 2013 as a grizzled super senior, giving myself a victory lap to enjoy the last little bit of the college lifestyle.
I am the last of a dying breed. I am one of the few students still left on this campus that can say, "I attended Spring Weekend." We are like the last of the Mohicans or the White-Headed Langur monkeys (Google that one, you will catch my drift).
When I say Spring Weekend, I am not talking about the police state of Storrs, where food trucks do not have enough food for everyone, I am talking about the pandemonium that current freshmen, sophomores and juniors can only dream about. I experienced the infamously mythic time where tens of thousands of students would gather like a drunken army into Carriage, Celeron and the fabled X-Lot to drink like they have never drunk before. They were reckless and dangerous nights, but they were some of the best nights that I will never wholly remember.
I have arguably seen more basketball history than most students who have attended UConn. I have seen four national championships and a 90 game win streak. I watched Kemba Walker get his number retired in the rafters of Gampel Pavilion and I watched Jim Calhoun retire in the very same building. I also had the luxury of covering the men's team this season when Kevin Ollie took over as the new coach of the Huskies.
I unfortunately was also here for the destruction of the Big East, the greatest alignment of college basketball I have ever watched. I also saw my beloved Jonathan logo changed. Although the new logo has grown on me, it was not an easy change for me to accept.
Growing up in Willington, Conn., I lived only 10 minutes from campus. Basketball is everything around here and to be a part of it, as a member of the student section or as a beat reporter for both teams, was both an honor and a privilege.
I remember my first game in the student section. It was Feb. 11, 2009, the winter of my freshman year and then No. 1 UConn was taking on No. 23 Syracuse at Gampel. I was finally there, in the thick of the craziness that was the student section during a game against the rival Orange and just 4:16 into the game, Jerome Dyson tore his lateral meniscus. The Huskies still won 63-49, but we all know how that season ended.
This game was a reminder that for as many good things I have seen while at UConn, I have experienced my fair share of depressing moments. I was there for Jasper Howard's last game and his candlelight vigil. I never knew Jazz personally, but for those few moments as hundreds of fellow students gathered, wept and mourned together, I never felt closer to strangers. And for all the students who passed while I attended this university, you will never be forgotten. You are all Huskies forever.
Writing those last few paragraphs was one of the most difficult things I have done. It was not because I wrote some eloquent story. In fact I do not think I articulated my experience as well as I wanted to. It was difficult because each time my fingers hit the keyboard to form a new word, I relived an old memory.
This was a time of reflection. It was a chance for me to think about all the good times I have had and all the wonderful people I have met. The last five years of my life is where I have experienced the most growth and maturity as both a writer and a man. And for everyone who has been there for me over the last half decade, I am eternally grateful.
I have been dreading the moment when I finally had to write this column for quite some time. In a little less than two weeks, I will graduate. For as exciting as it will be to walk across that stage and get my diploma, the final step in completing my education, it will be just as bittersweet.
As cliché as it sounds, college was some of the best years of my life. It seems like just yesterday I was signing up for my freshman courses, and now I am getting ready to leave.
Time is a funny thing. When you want it to speed up, it moves impossibly slow, but when you want it to last, it disappears faster than you can count.
With that said, to all those graduating this spring, congratulations and best of luck to you in your future endeavors. To those who still have some time left here before graduating, enjoy every moment. Take nothing and no one for granted.
Most importantly, thank you to the University of Connecticut, for the greatest years of my life.

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