YAHANDA: Not dreading the end
Students should not let graduation nostalgia hinder their view of the future
My fourth year is far from over, yet I already have friends who are becoming nostalgic. Goals of graduate school and jobs are becoming realities and students are widely recognizing at this point that their stints at the University are coming to an end. But though their time at this school has been spent working toward specific postgraduate opportunities, it seems as if very few students actually want to leave the University after this year. I find that sentiment to be somewhat strange, because it is a feeling that I do not share.
If you regularly read The Cavalier Daily, then you know that we feature guest columns from fourth-year trustees entitled “Trust a Trustee.” Though they are generally well-written and heartfelt, these articles inevitably center on a few core themes. The trustees usually write to impart wisdom on underclassmen for how to make the most of the University. The importance of stepping outside one’s comfort zone, for instance, is a common topic, as is seizing any given opportunity.
Now, I am not going to say that the trustee columns offer poor advice. Admittedly, I was already looking to follow that advice coming into college. Like so many underclassmen, I sought to immerse myself in the many activities that this school offers. And, to be sure, I have benefitted from pursuing a wide range of different opportunities, from club tennis to writing for The Cavalier Daily. Nevertheless, I find it strange that the trustees, whose writing may be read by first years and fourth years alike, have little to say about leaving the University. Overall, it would be refreshing to see reminders — from trustees or other sources — that the University is not the end-all-be-all, and that some students may in fact be looking forward to graduation.
I have come to realize, with surprise, that I fall into that category. As my fourth year flies past, I have found myself developing an ever-growing case of senioritis. I am not put off by the idea that the fourth years will be graduating in less than eight months. Graduation, in my opinion, is coming at the proper time.
To be fair, this senioritis is less potent than that felt by, say, high schoolers. My brother, a senior in high school, is counting down the days before he can leave high school and most of his classmates behind. I don’t share those exact sentiments, and my feelings toward graduation do not carry the same sense of yearning. I don’t actively wish that I were someplace other than Charlottesville. But I am entirely accepting of the end to my time here.
My sentiments are diametrically opposed to many of the students and recent alumni I know. Why, those people argue, would one ever want to leave the University? I see their points. Students at the University — and no doubt at any college — are frequently reminded of the notion that college comprises some of the best years of one’s life. And it frequently seems like that sentiment holds true. College students exist in a very privileged bubble: they have to work hard to prepare for their future, but lack many of the stressful responsibilities that are encountered in the real world. I totally understand why people want their four years here to drag out much longer. Indeed, I have nothing to look forward to at the moment, as I have no idea yet what I will be doing next year. The excitement of day-to-day routine of college life, though, has been supplanted by anticipation for the future. As strange as it seems, postgraduate life is becoming a welcoming option.
I don’t think that such a mindset is unreasonable, or that it is incompatible with enjoying one’s remaining time at the University. I have friends who now always highlight when they are doing their last go-around of a certain event. They mentioned when they attended their last first football game or their last Rotunda Sing. I don’t think, however, that I enjoyed those events any less than they did because I lacked that sentimentality. One can definitely value an event for its own sake without tying it into our fourth year or graduation. Moreover, we have already had four years of to enjoy those events. At some point I feel that our futures outside the University should be looked at with more than a sense of repulsion.
The efforts by the trustees and other organizations to bring together fourth-year classmates before they graduate are admirable. A class in some respects functions as a giant family, and there is nothing wrong with promoting more student unity, even when it is in our final year. And perhaps at this point next year I will be missing the University much more than I anticipated. Yet I hope my sentiments are shared, at least in small part, by every fourth year before graduation. Students should not feel dread or fear at our upcoming graduation. Exiting the University is not a tragedy. While students’ participation in University life may be immensely rewarding, it ultimately yields diminishing returns. Leaving our college lives behind is eventually necessary for us to shape truly fulfilling lives. At some point we must take what we have learned here and apply it to the outside world. Though some students find that prospect more enticing than others, all should find it exciting on some level.
Alex Yahanda is a senior associate editor for The Cavalier Daily. His columns run Wednesdays.