As I take a brief moment to step out of the time machine that is life, I find myself only weeks away from graduation. How fast the four years have flown by I’ll never know (287,038 mph), but all I can tell you is I’ll definitely miss them. As I wrap up my collegiate career here at University of Wisconsin, I realize it is my duty as a senior to pass on my wisdom to current and future Badgers.
When I enrolled at UW, I didn’t know a single soul at this university. I was drawn all the way across the country by the allure of prestigious athletics, reputable academics and an active social scene. Leaving the comfort of home, I embarked on one helluva college journey.
My first piece of advice is to expand your social circles as wide as you can, and go out of your way to meet people. With thousands of undergraduates enrolled here, you’re sure to find many people with similar interests.
But not everyone you meet has to be your best friend. What I’ve realized is that you have a variety of friends for different purposes: the roommate best friend, the see-you-every-weekend-to-pregame friend, the “Hey! You were in my discussion two semesters ago and we never talked to each other, but now that we’re both drunk we can be best friends” friend, the study partner, the intramural sport teammate, the in-the-same-student-org friend and many more.
Every friend you have has benefits, and that is why you should make as many as possible — it’ll also help you when you’re trying to land a job.
My next piece of advice is to ask questions. While I have always been very talkative socially, I haven’t always been such a chatterbox inside the classroom. I’ll be honest, as a freshman and sophomore I was often intimidated to ask questions in class because I feared looking stupid. I won’t tell you there aren’t any stupid questions — because there are — but you’re only wasting the thousands of dollars you spend to learn here if you don’t maximize your educational experience. This means ask questions about what you don’t know, challenge ideas and think outside the box. Most of the time, someone else in class has the same question, and you’re going to help them out as well.
My last parting wisdom is to be active. Not be active in the sense of exercise — though doctors do recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week — but in the sense of doing things in and around Madison. Whether it be going to a football game — stay for the fifth quarter at least once even if you’re legs feel like they are about to fall off — going to a concert at the union, paddle boarding on Lake Mendota or visiting Henry Vilas Zoo. Go explore the city!
Yes, college is a place to get the education and experience to hopefully prepare you for your career. More importantly college is an experience. People don’t just lie to you all the time and say it’s the best four (or five) years of your life. Go sledding on dining hall trays, study at the Terrace, road trip one spring break, throw an ugly sweater party, watch the homecoming parade, day drink at Mifflin, rub Abe’s toe for good luck and embrace your time here.
If there’s one last thing I can say, it’s I won’t remember the Friday nights I spent in College Library or class readings about how glaciers are deposited. What I’m going to remember is all the adventures I’ve had with my friends and the funny stories I can tell my children in 20 years — if I find a compatible human.
All in all, college is what you make it and like most things, the more effort you put in it, the more you’ll get out of it.
Ryan Smith ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in strategic communications.