Last weekend, I visited my best friend at another top university. I arrived Thursday night and didn’t see a sober person again until I returned to Emory Sunday evening. The experience was jarring and a reminder that the 1962 classic “Animal House” lampoons a world that does exist on college campuses. I know many people who think that this is the only world you should experience in college.

I’m not one of those people.

When I graduate in May, I will do so knowing that I have carved out my own unique college experience. I dedicated my entire college career to this newspaper, and it culminated in a senior year that has shaped me in ways I never expected.

As editor in chief of The Emory Wheel, I had much work to do. What does it mean to run a newspaper? It means spending 40 hours a week solely on an extracurricular. It means ignoring homework and friends to manage crises and people, often crises in themselves. It also means knowing when to breathe for the sake of your own sanity.

When Emory unexpectedly announced the closing of several departments and programs last September, I found myself in a strange position. Administrators knew that the newspaper would play a role in the implementation of the plan while students, faculty and alumni, many angry and bewildered, looked to us for answers. There would be protests and sit-ins, secret meetings and off-the-record conversations. Everyone on this campus had and continues to have a stake in the direction of this University, and I felt dizzy being in the middle of that vortex.

The vortex was often unkind. Outsiders hardly understand the work that goes into a newspaper but nonetheless often rush to label us as stupid, biased, racist, ignorant, lazy and sensational. Being made aware of one failure amid dozens of successes – such is the nature of any leadership position. There will always be those who encourage and those who discourage. Neither are necessarily in the right, but what matters is that there are many different voices in the first place.

Running a newspaper was also a privilege. It was a privilege to have a voice in a community with thousands of brilliant minds, and it was a privilege to be a vital source of information for the uninformed. It was a privilege to learn, grow and bond with my fellow editors.

A former editor-in-chief recently asked me whether I “had fun” this year.

No, not really.

This year was an unpleasant one but nonetheless defined by a rich experience that was demanding and emotionally taxing in ways that go beyond homework and midterms. I’m glad it was all of those things because the real world doesn’t get any kinder, or so I’m told.

There would often be days where at the end of the night I would open the door to my apartment and literally fall to the floor. I’d just lay there, and I’d think, “Jesus, it’s only October.”

Well, now it’s April. I have yet to pull an all-nighter, streak across campus, commit a lewd act in the library, drink wine from a bag or wake up in a place I don’t remember being in the night before.

And that’s okay. It’s okay because after four years at Emory University, I feel ready to graduate and take on the world. You can call me wrong. You can call me naïve, but in my eyes, I think that’s the best college experience anyone could have.

Senior Editor Evan Mah is a College senior from Memphis, Tn.