In 18 days, I will not be sad to leave Penn behind.
I’m convinced this puts me in the minority of Penn students out there, especially given all the nostalgia among seniors who are anything but eager to put on their graduation regalia, stand among their peers at Franklin Field and throw their mortarboards into the air.
But allow me to propose a theory — it gets better.
Our family, our mentors and our friends often tell us that these years are the best years of our lives. Enjoy them while we can, they explain, because they do not last forever.
I’ve never bought it, and I love the college atmosphere — the hustle and bustle on Locust Walk, the brilliant professors and the massive resources of the Penn Libraries system. (OK, so my version of Penn might be slightly different from yours. But seriously, the Van Pelt Library is incredible.) I just refuse to believe that my life has officially peaked at the ripe old age of 22.
Don’t get me wrong — there are certain unique perks to the college life. I willingly admit that I will probably not have the same amount of freedom to do what I want, when I want, for a long time — at least until I retire 100 or so years from now.
But at least to this humble columnist, what the Class of 2011 will do after graduation seems far more valuable — innovate a new and popular product, shape public policy on major issues like health care, climate change and Afghanistan or teach underprivileged students.
Perhaps I’m alone on this, but the day-to-day effort toward those goals has always felt like the more rewarding life experience.
In the meantime, for all of those students not ready to graduate just yet, I offer two academically oriented pieces of advice.
First, use more of the resources the University has to offer. Apply for a research grant through the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships. Ask the librarians in Van Pelt for help when you’re looking for materials for that 20 page final paper you left until the last minute. You’d be surprised how much they know.
Utilize Van Pelt's 2.58 million-volume (yes, million) open stacks — they contain almost every book you could possibly want. And on the off chance they do not, there’s a good chance you can still get the book in a few days from another under the “Borrow Direct,” “E-Z Borrow” or Interlibrary loan programs.
Second, consider writing a thesis. It’s been said before, but a thesis is the ultimate culmination of a Penn career, a way to look back on your time at Penn and feel academically complete.
Undertaking such a large challenge will have its costs, with plenty of late nights huddled over a desk, working on a fourth caffeinated beverage of your choice, watching as the sun comes up over the Comcast Center in downtown Philadelphia. Personally, I enjoyed those nights — as much as one could enjoy thesis-induced sleep deprivation — but even for those who do not, the hard work put into writing it will only make it that much more satisfying when its finally complete.
Who knows, you might just end up with a gem of a paper, one worthy of being published. It’s certainly not an experience meant for everyone, and should not be a general requirement, but maintaining an intellectually stimulating environment through your senior year should be.
So Wednesday I took my final toast, tipping my hat to the rising seniors and preparing for an even better stage of life to begin.
Evan Medina, a former columnist and staff writer, is a College senior from south Florida. He is contemplating retirement, among a variety of other things, after graduation.Comments powered by Disqus
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