When we embark on college–the next four, two, eight, years of our life to be consumed by an institution that will give us nothing more than a piece of card stock with some fancily drawn letters on it to commemorate our blood, sweat and tears (and then only communicate with us to ask, no, beg us for money)–we do not realize just how much there is to be learned. Yes, I can tell you about the intricacies of Collective Bargaining in the Auto Industry and why the relative power of the Unions has decreased in recent years. I can carry a conversation about Macro Economic policy in Europe. I’ll give my opinion on literature in America, the impact of social media on society, and the fragile political system in the global north. Hell, I can even tell you how much Bees add to our economy every year ($14 Billion. Bees! $14 Billion!) But this all pales in comparison to what I really learned in college.
One of my single biggest fears coming to college was my diet. At home, my mother was in charge of making sure I ate veggies, and had a good balance of carbs, grains, and whatever. At college, she wasn’t going to be there to make me eat these things.
I had to learn how to iron shirts effectively. And how to make a budget. How to ask a professor or TA for help when I was doing poorly in a class, instead of them holding my hand along the way. I had to learn how to behave in a social setting–how to handle my alcohol (one of the most important things I learned) and also how to handle other people on alcohol. And when either of those got out of hand, I had to learn how to navigate into safety, or talk my way out of trouble. I had to learn how to talk to girls.
Actually, I still have to learn that one…
On the real though, it is all of these things, and more that I will walk away with as the most worthwhile learning experiences. I learned that I am bulletproof, only to learn that that is not truly the case. And sure, the conversations I can maintain are excellent, and the point of view I bring to the table is informed and unique, but these aren’t the most practical applications of my education. It is what I learned on how to be a person.
So thank you Cornell, for while I may have avoided your libraries, cursed the professors you deemed appropriate for tenure, and openly criticized the expectations you have of your students, ultimately, I owe you.