With the opportune timing of the first month back, I write this for everyone: the first years, the second years, and yes, those in the 17th year of their three-year B.A.
People are here to get a degree, bro. But why do they even want that?
Firstly, as a means to gain entry to the workforce. Secondly, to do some deep learning: does post-modern really just mean “in the future?” Does that make Futurama post-modern? (Yes). Why do pets... always end up dead?
Lastly, and leastly – there are few viable alternatives for your average urban, middle-class high school graduate. Nothin’ else to do.
Those are all perfectly, semi-legitimate reasons to be here, but to achieve the fullness of education that some Greek guys originally envisioned, you need to stay involved in community.
The student community, the neighbourhood around the university, and wherever you live. This can be volunteering, but it also means attending events, protests, lectures and parties. It means interaction with those around you, and talking to strangers (politely). It can mean student groups where the commitment is vague and the coordinator just has a Gmail address, or even creating your own group, organization, movement.
Throughout my own embarrassingly lengthy university career (which I enjoyed enough to return for a second degree, mind you), this principle has served me well.
Through the dangerous gateway drug of student politics, I discovered a multiplicity of different activities, where energetic people congregated to share ideas and find interesting things to do.
Sometimes these activities and arguments concurred with the consumption of delicious hops beverages. Sometimes colleagues became valued friends.
Outside of social benefits, community involvement nailed all three of the university goals listed above.
I entered university feeling ignorant, and also lost. Like that show my friends used to watch in high school: Lost. I now have an unrealistic number of passions, which cannot possibly be sustained over a 24-hour day. My classes were mostly very valuable, (although I never did learn why kangaroos have pouches or why koalas are cute), but some of my greatest growth came from experiences with actual humans. Better still, all of my employment over the past five years has come from organizations I had been previously involved with.
It’s painfully easy to sleepwalk through the classes and homework for a few years. With the substantial freedom and independence university affords, comes the freedom to be intimidated.
If it’s never demanded that you try something new, it’s exceptionally easy to slip through your degree without ever establishing any new connections.
I beseech you: don’t allow the glaringly obvious tomato sauce on your pants to prevent you from showing up to the student group meeting you’d planned to attend.
Tomato sauce is like romance and hurricanes and sometimes it will just happen. Read the weird posters plastered on all those bulletin boards – find things worth your time.
When you don’t have anyone to go to an event with? Then go to that upcoming Chris Hedges lecture by yourself. I’m sure Chris won’t even notice you’re riding solo.
Hurl yourself into new situations with the reckless confidence of Ben Affleck as Batman, and you’ll do fine.
Fabian Suarez-Amaya finished his 3-year B.A. in slightly less than 17 years.