At long last, my California adventure is over, and I didn’t even get to go to the shitty theme park.

I remember the day I arrived here like it was yesterday. I was a tall, lanky Asian kid from the Midwest standing on the street corner outside of Santa Cruz Hall, amazed at the plethora of SUVs zipping by me as I prepared to meet my new roommates — a skinny white dude from the Bay area and a big Mexican guy from L.A. The words “hella,” “sick,” “home boy” and “tight” had not yet been added to my vocabulary, but that would soon change.

California has given me a lot of firsts — my first beer, my first hangover, my first drunken embarrassment, my first drunken hookup and what I hope to be my last drunken hookup. There were also some non-alcohol-related benefits, but for some reason, they strike me as unimportant at this time. Oh, and I almost forgot — the Golden State hooked me up with a diploma signed by “The Terminator,” which might come in handy in the future.

For me, this journey has been a political one. It started with me showing up to a Campus Democrats meeting enticed by the prospect of free pizza, which eventually led to 5 a.m. precinct walking on Election Day and ended with my becoming the resident left-wing polemicist for the Nexus. Yet, despite the partisan nature of both my column and myself, one of my fondest memories is still sloshball with the College Republicans. It showed that, despite our political differences, we could all still enjoy a brew on our way past second base.

In many ways, that sunny afternoon in Dogshit Park represents what I’ve come to love about California. California is diverse, and not just racially and culturally, but politically as well. I’ve met people here from places I’ve never even heard of, people who have come from backgrounds that are drastically different from my own, and people with political persuasions that would put Bill Clinton to shame.

And yet perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned over these four years is that none of that matters. Labels don’t matter, especially labels of the political kind. Liberal, conservative, moderate — these labels are all skin-deep. None of them mean anything. Our politics are the sum of the issues that matter to us, nothing more. What college should be about is discovering the issues that matter to you and letting those issues shape your political beliefs.

The diversity of California has shaped who I am both personally and politically, and for that I am eternally grateful. Even though we live in a community where liberals outnumber conservatives 4-1, that hasn’t stopped the free flow of ideas from each side of the political spectrum. Every time you hear a position that is different from your own, you’re forced to question your own beliefs and make them stronger. Like I said before, labels don’t matter. What does matter is that last week I was able to play beer pong with a Republican as my teammate, and with a Communist and a Libertarian across the table. Now that’s the sort of diversity I’ll drink to.

Now comes the obligatory part where I thank people nobody knows, but bear with me. First, I’d like to thank my girlfriend Clare and her aunt Lin for serving as my second and third editors, respectively. I’ll also thank the UCSB Campus Democrats for feeding me junk food every Tuesday. Thanks to all my readers and every person who came up to me during random house parties and told me they dug my work. I’d also like to thank all my critics as well — rest assured, I’ve read every word of your responses and no, I won’t engage in a rap battle with you. I’d like to thank Meghan for letting me use the Nexus as my soapbox. And lastly, I’d like to close with a quote I feel captures the essence of my column. It comes from “The Simpsons”: “We must move forward, not backward, upward, not forward, and twirling, always twirling toward freedom.”

Daily Nexus columnist Neil Visalvanich came to California for the weather, but will stay for the free pizza.