As the school year drew to a close two short weeks ago, the University of Maryland’s parking lots were once again buzzing with a disarray of suitcases, moving carts, illegally parked minivans and thousands of weary undergraduates longing to return home after a strenuous semester. However, while the throngs of students and parents crisscrossing each other to give last minute hugs and goodbyes may have seem muddled and disjointed from afar, a closer look reveals the true wonder of our campus’s diversity.

Many freshmen and seniors alike have returned to their old neighborhoods to hang out with their old friends and relive many of their past experiences as if they had never left. But while each of our backgrounds may feel familiar to ourselves, when compared to our college peers, they become remarkably unique. Our in-state students alone span a vast spectrum of race, ethnicity, gender and socioeconomics, with our 23 counties supporting an intricate web of distinctive communities, each represented at College Park. Zoom out on the map of our diversity, and this elaborate network remains only a microcosm of this university’s national and global reach.

This is no accident. This university prides itself on incorporating individuals from all walks of life into our student body, and rightfully so. But it is also important to remember that our diversity extends far beyond our past, and into each of our futures. The immense grid of professional, geographic and disciplinary connectivity among the graduates of our more than 90 majors and 11 undergraduate colleges spans even wider than the network of experiences created from those graduates’ backgrounds. From journalists reporting from distant continents, to entrepreneurs investing in the very communities they grew up in, the effects of our alumni can all be traced back to this campus.

So to the incoming class of 2020: As you are welcomed to the University of Maryland this summer, remember that you are now a part of this elaborate network of individuals. The emotions of wonder and excitement will greet you as you meet those who once led lives unimaginably different than yours. Take the time to expand your social circles and you will without a doubt discover the experiences and friendships that will change you over these next four years.

But do not forget that while the diversity and community this university offers is exceptional, it is also fleeting. Like a powerful magnet, this university attracts remarkable people from countless different backgrounds and pulls them to this campus, only to ship them off to an equally varied set of experiences in the professional world a few short years later. And so, in our brief time here, we are gifted with a remarkable opportunity at the eye of this diversity hurricane. Do not waste it.