As the saying goes, time flies when you're having fun. This may be true, but I cannot seem to gauge how quickly four years has gone by. At the risk of sounding a little bit like my mother, it really does feel like it was just yesterday when I made the decision to come to the University of Michigan, before my college experience had even begun.
And now, somehow, I have to cope with the fact that it is all but done. I may even miss weeks like this, where I spend more time trying to find an empty seat at the UGLI (the Undergraduate Library) than I do studying. (Ok, maybe that was a dramatic stretch, but you can see where I'm going... )
Even worse, every moment seems like it's my last: the last time I'll spend 48 straight hours writing a paper, the last time I'll live in a house with five of my best girlfriends, the last time it will be socially acceptable to spend every single Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday of an entire year at the same bar (Scorekeepers <3), the last time I'll sit in a three-hundred person lecture, the last email I'll send to a professor, faking an unidentified illness in the hopes of receiving enough sympathy to garner an excused absence....
Though right now it is not in my immediate post-graduation plans, the idea of one day going to graduate school is still something I'm considering. Nevertheless, I can't help but feel scared that a huge portion of my academic life is over. While college is infamous for partying, making life-long friends, nights of binge-drinking, and sexual experimentation (remember when your parents told you that college was "the best times of their life"), it has also served me many other purposes: self-discovery, realizing that I can learn as much from my peers as I can from my professors, the importance of perspective, the complicated nature of history, and most of all, to not just learn and accept everything I'm told -- but to question.
While this may seem completely predictable and cliché, I have to admit that I truly believe that my experience at the University of Michigan has equipped me with not just a diploma, but a skill set that has adequately prepared me for what is to come. While the prestige of attending a top-tier university may be what helps students to get jobs, it is the critical thinking, lengthy writing assignments, and analytical approaches that truly mark Michigan students as unique, well-rounded, and intellectual beings. And of course, a competitive football team and overly supportive alumni doesn't hurt either.
In a post I recently read on the Ann Arbor News, the University of Michigan was "highlighted as an example of a college 'doing it right' and 'challenging' undergraduates" according to an episode on Comedy Central's Colbert Report that aired last Tuesday where guest Richard Hersh, "an education consultant and co-author of We're Losing our Minds: Rethinking American Higher Education" was interviewed on the subject of "higher education and college standards." According to the article:
The "University of Michigan as an undergraduate school does some wonderful work with students," Hersh told Colbert.
"And what does that mean?" Colbert asked. "What do you mean the wonderful work? Because there are some things that all students can appreciate when they go to college. You know, gaining 15 pounds and being in an a cappella group. Those are universal. What is like a specific thing that a college might do different?"
"That no matter which course they take, or at least for most courses, they're being asked to actually engage in serious thought, lots of reading, lots of writing and getting a lot of assessment and feedback. And where in fact they are challenged all the time, rather than simply taking courses for credit hours and getting a diploma."
To hear an expert resonate similar feelings I am having towards understanding all that college, and the University of Michigan, has done for me academically, socially, and professionally, I cannot help but feel forever indebted towards the chapter in my life called college. And to all of those lucky readers, who are still in the midst of this experience, enjoy and embrace it to the absolute fullest. Realize where you are and how lucky you are to be at not just a distinguished institution, but also a place that welcomes diverse thinking and all that may entail. As for the rest of my fellow graduates joining me in the University of Michigan class of 2012, goodbye and good luck. I hope to see all of you again in that vague, unfamiliar, foreign land called "the real world."
(Photo by Anthony Gattine under a Creative Commons License)
This post originally ran on ConsiderOnline.org.