Ruminations on graduation

By Ryan Pike

Breaking up, like many things in life, is hard to do. It’s especially difficult when the relationship has been long-standing. This spring is particularly difficult for me, because I have to say goodbye to both the University of Calgary and the hit television series Lost.

I started at the U of C way back in September 2004. Paul Martin was prime minister, George Bush was America’s president and Lost was just about to premiere on ABC. Now, after six years, it’s time to say goodbye. If you’ll indulge me, here’s a few words of advice. Hopefully I’ll provide more answers by the time I’m done than Lost will.

You should probably go to your classes, at least some of the time. Go often enough that your professors know who you are, or at least have a vague recognition of where you typically sit. While this means they’ll probably be able to bust your ass when you skip class to drink in the Den, it also means they’ll know when you show up and are putting in an effort. Professors are people too, even if they have made strange life decisions. Seeing that you actually show up means they might cut you a break once in awhile.

That said, classes aren’t everything. Over six years at the U of C, I probably spent more time in the Gauntlet office or the Den than in class. Against all odds, I managed reasonably strong grades and actually graduated roughly on time, something few Gauntlet editors ever do. The challenge facing you, as a student and as a customer of the university, is to get as much from this place as you give to it with your tuition.

Have some adventures while you’re young. This doesn’t necessarily have to do just with schooling, but you should use the time you have above the university safety net to do some cool stuff. Go on a road trip. Spend a weekend in the mountains. Make friends with a stranger in one of your classes. Heck, take one or two really interesting options during your degree — like one of the film department’s awesome genre classes. Last spring and summer I was able to make my classes all movie-themed, which made me actually want to drag my ass out of bed every morning.

Last, but certainly not least, challenge yourself and those around you. It’s really fun to surround yourself with like-minded people, but it’s also really easy. Spend some time with people whose lifestyles or viewpoints are in stark opposition to your own. I’m fairly centrist, politically, but I’ve managed to have some tremendously eye-opening conversations with communists, libertarians, conservatives and even university administrators. The key is to expose yourself to differing viewpoints — even if they’re completely bat-shit crazy, you’ll open your mind to some extent.

The university, much like the rest of the world, is filled with people trying to do the best with what they’ve been given. The Students’ Union might not be the most effective body in the world, but they’re doing as much as they can. If they all wanted to pad their resumes and slack off, there are much easier ways to do it. Similarly, nobody in administration is out to get students. It just seems that way sometimes given the things they do to keep the books balanced. If everyone had the resources they required, no doubt academic quality of life at this institution would take a great leap forward.

Myself, I’m leaving the U of C proud about most of my time here, although the quality of my experience had little to do with the school or classes.

Once you make the decision to enroll, it’s up to you to make the most out of things. Jacking up tuition aside, there’s very little the university can do to make things great or terrible. I’ve had the opportunity to go to free concerts, travel across the country and meet politicians, musicians, activists and all sorts of interesting people from all walks of life. The U of C might be granting me my degrees, but they have nothing to do with why I had so much fun here.

I spent my time on this island and got as much as I could from the experience. I hope you all do the same.

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