February 28, 2013 Leave a comment
Weather permitting, in about 10 weeks writing and rhetoric major Anthony Baracat (’13) will walk across the university’s historic Quadrangle for the last time as an undergraduate to collect the diploma he’s worked toward for the past three and a half years. As he walks, he — like so many seniors before him — will reflect on his Madison years and the change that commencement will mark. I asked Anthony, who interned in the Be the Change office last semester, to think about what he might tell a newly admitted student. This is what he had to say….
Some senior wisdom
James Madison is the only university I have ever attended. So while it may be true that I cannot adequately compare JMU to other colleges, I can tell you we have some great stuff. Look at a cork board anywhere on campus to see some of it: author and poet lectures (both Donald Miller and Sean Thomas Dougherty are visiting in the next two months), free concerts, great food all over the place and, if you’ve taken a class, quality education and professors. I mean it. And as a graduating senior, there are surely some more of these things I wish I had done earlier. Here are a few:
1) TAKE ADVICE Listen when professors and involved students make announcements, write down the date and time. You never know whom you’ll meet at a show or friends you could make joining a club. My prime example would be visiting professors during office hours. I was adamant about not doing such a thing until this year, but now I have two “mentors” I talk with regularly. We talk about jobs, writing and even share books. Of course they’re great “connections,” but they’re also great friends. In essence, if you try something and don’t like it, fine. But try it first.
2) LIVE IN HARRISONBURG Don’t just go to JMU. Stretch your mind and consider that maybe, just maybe this is one of the most beautiful spots in Virginia. Volunteer at Skyline Literacy as an English tutor, help out at H.A.R.T.S., a local homeless shelter, or even attend a high school football game or play. The point is, meet folks who have been here a while and be in settings uncomfortable to you—it’s worth the trouble.
3) BE ALONE Get some time to yourself. College is a time to meet people, hang out, go to six events a weekend, sleep for four hours, study, and then do it again. But between social events and school, it’s okay to need recovery (if that’s how you get it). Tuck in a corner of Carrier or Rose Libraries or walk off-campus, read and get coffee. Take the bus by yourself to Target. Go for a walk or a hike if you can; just head toward the mountains. Turn off your phone even!
All in all, do everything you can and do it again if it’s for you. Be around people and try new things. Don’t be the typical college student (grown-ups sure appreciate that!) and when you’re tired, take a break until you’re ready to face the world again. This college and the city it’s in provide a great range of opportunities for anything you could want to do. We’re lucky.
And study! The real world awaits when you’re done with all this fun.