It still hasn't dawned on me.

Nearly every day, I am faced with the reality that in only two weeks I will no longer be a student at the University of Wisconsin, yet even as I type these words, I am incapable of understanding it. I suppose I have some subconscious aversion to the acknowledgment of things that are unpleasant to me.

Sunday morning was a case in point, as I awoke — exhausted and lazy after a long Mifflin Saturday — to realize that I would be writing my last column ever for The Badger Herald. Even as I recognized this fact, however, I did not truly process it. Instead, I reverted to my typical scramble over finding a suitable topic on which to write. And with this haste, came my habitual self-query as to why I ever decided to write an obligatory weekly column in the first place. It was at this point that I realized what I wanted to write about.

In asking myself why I had ever felt it necessary to write a regular editorial, I was simulating on a small scale the nature of my entire college experience.

From the day I set foot on the UW campus, I have been in a constant process of re-evaluating my preconceived notions. Actually, I would go so far as to say that my college experience has been a process of unlearning as much as it has been one of learning. In considering this, it has become clear to me why I have not been able to anticipate graduation with the excitement I would have once expected.

My four years in Madison cannot be quantified in terms of a title or degree. It is not as if I'm leaving the UW at some measurably higher tier of education than that at which I entered. Rather, college has been, for me, a facilitator and an accelerator of a learning process that began while I was in high school and will inevitably continue for the rest of my life. To state it annoyingly: The most important thing I've learned over the past four years — something I am still learning every day — is simply how much there is to learn.

I am not trying to arrogantly present myself as some sort of enlightened being. I am simply stating that because I have tried to embrace the opportunity for reflection that college affords, I believe I've gained at least an elementary understanding of how little I know. And although I might have benefited only modestly from the collegiate environment of encouraged introspection, I believe I do now have a fair appreciation for the potential of such an environment. Because of this, it is disheartening to see the low regard in which college is held by our culture.

I am sick of hearing college characterized simply as some vehicle through which economic success can be achieved. Although I've done my fair share of each, the university experience must be more than just a time to "work hard and play hard." To hold such a notion is to consider worthless any wisdom beyond what is essential to master a trade.

There is a reason why college provides a four- (or five or six or seven) year haven from the economic realities that surround it. College is a hiatus from the fast-paced world around it — one in which we are allowed an extraordinary amount of freedom so long as we fulfill one obligation: to think. To treat college as labor, simply plowing through four years at a university, is to completely ignore the main benefit to be gained.

When I graduate in a couple of weeks, I will leave college without the ability to program a computer or fully understand the suburban housing market. At the same time, however, what I will have gained from college is more important to me than any tangible skill: College has taught me how important it is to question everything.

Rob Rossmeissl ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism and political science.