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May your university friendships endure

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The end of the university year brings farewells - sometimes to be renewed somewhere in the future as a lifelong friendship, sometimes people you’ll never see again.

I took our so-far one and only Couch Surfer to the airport Monday morning, for his flight to Chicago, and then on to Stockholm and home. "A" is a wonderful young person, and given that his sister is still going to university and playing hockey in northern Minnesota, we may see him again. And maybe someday, as we travel, we’ll Couch Surf in northern Sweden.

Maybe.

I was struck more by his saying goodbye at our house Sunday night after one last evening out with two of the friends he’d made in residence at U of M, a student from Pinawa and an Australian exchange student. We gave them their privacy, but I could feel how tough it was for all of them to say goodbye.

A had arrived at the airport about 1 a.m. on Jan. 2, staying with us for three nights before moving into residence.

We had advised him to be a little circumspect about his Winnipeg hosts — he was enrolled in a math course with a certain professor, and he was an engineering student, best not to tout any connection he had here to the non-engineering side of the Red Lion/Red Loin matter.

He was a wonderful guest whom we had in our home again and kept in touch with over the past four months, and A chose to stay in residence until the very last moment, squeezing out as much time as he could with the last friends still on campus.

One last night at our place, then off to the airport.

Did I say a great guest? He left a gift behind for child the younger when she returns from her own university and friends later this week, a gift that came from Vancouver, via northern Sweden, of personally-signed photographs of A’s dad’s good hometown friend’s twin sons.

Meanwhile, as child the elder closes in on the last two weeks of his bicycle adventure that’s surpassed 14,000 kilometres — Crazy Guy on a Bike — he’s with one of his university roommates riding around the coast of Washington state, and he’ll be staying in Vancouver with another university buddy. And along the way he’s stayed with one of my university friends near Napanee before crossing back into the U.S. last fall, and could have stayed in Ottawa and Vancouver with other friends I’ve had for a lifetime.

Along his route around the U.S., there’ve been a lot of farewells, sometimes after just one day, when his online journal showed a connection with kindred spirits.

Child the elder stayed near San Francisco with people we met in February in Costa Rica, people with whom I sensed we could be friends for a long time, but there is such a remote chance of being together again.

But, still...

Anyway, I don’t mean to be melancholy. People can stay in touch so much more easily than we ever could back in the day, with all those people to whom we really, really meant to write and exchange newsy letters and cards on special occasions, and to whom we meant to provide forwarding addresses, and just somehow lost touch along the way.

I hope that all of you throwing your stuff into bags and heading home this week will keep your friends for a lifetime.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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