As graduation day quickly approaches and the rest of my life stretches out before me like the vast unknown, I’m filled with both immense excitement and the overwhelming urge to hide under my covers in denial.

It’s hard to imagine what the future may hold; the untold triumphs and disappointments, the trials and adventures that lay ahead.

When it comes to being prepared for the future, upcoming graduates like me can only hope that our education at Tech has given us the skills that we’ll need to be successful out there.

I’ve sat through countless lectures to complete an education that started with learning how to color between the lines. I was also extremely fortunate to have a wonderful internship opportunity that not only gave me work experience on my resume and taught me how to interact professionally, but showed me that even the smallest office can feel like a family if they share a passion and a vision that they work for every single day.

Of course, when it comes to pursuing a common passion, working as an editor on the Technique staff has been one of the most chaotic, hysterical and rewarding experiences of my life.

When I think of all of the students that I’ve met, the faculty members I’ve spoken with, the campus events I’ve covered and friends I’ve made all the while, I know that there are few chances presented in a college career to get to know so many different people. I’m very thankful for that chance.

After meeting all of these people who work so hard in their jobs and with their organizations, I truly believe that the passions we discover here on campus for ourselves are the most important things we can take with us post-graduation.

As the merciless, unforgiving “real world” looms before us, we can take comfort in the things that really make us who we are, and hold on to them no matter the direction the future takes us in our personal and professional lives.

For instance, Tech has given me a love of community service that I know will continue to grow. After participating in several years of Team Buzz projects and Tech Beautification Days, I’ve gained a true appreciation for philanthropy.

Sacrificing a little sleep and time to do something for someone else is ultimately so fulfilling, and that passion certainly does not have to end after we leave here.

Of course, there are other things that shouldn’t have to end with graduation, either.

I think that college brings out the activist in all of us—we stand by our beliefs, and we’re prepared to argue on their behalf far longer and with more fervor than the subject matter sometimes deserves.

From civil rights issues like gay marriage, to which Pixar movie is the greatest to date, each of us has an opinion that we would fight and kill to defend. I’ve had those arguments, I’ve seen real passion and even when we disagree it’s still heartening to know that we will never be passive—we will never back down where and when it really matters.

Every new generation of college graduates has more to give to make the world more diverse, more progressive, more accepting and more extraordinary than before.

College teaches us that we have to stand up in order to protect and preserve what we love; to ignore the hate and judgment and chase what we desire most. Taking that enthusiasm with us into the real world is the way to make real change happen.

People always say that graduation is where our lives begin, but I like to think of it as more of a chance to continue exploring the passions and beliefs that are as much a part of us now as those Starbucks coffees we consume like the nectar of the gods to keep us going every day.

Our passions stay with us longer than anything we will ever learn in a lecture hall. My ambitions drove me to follow my desire to major in liberal arts at a technology school, which was considered an unlikely choice by many. But in the end I have no regrets—only happy memories.

When we’re old and looking back on these times, the things we remember are going to be the things that we believed in and fought for, back when we thought that we could change the world—and I think we will change it, for the better.