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Appreciating academia

IT'S HOT. I'm in the middle of a Washington summer heat wave. I'm wearing a suit, and I have a 45-minute commute ahead of me on the Metro. It's hot and I'm tired because I got up at 7 a.m. this morning for my nine-to-five day.

Okay, it's really not that rough of a life. It's a normal life. This is what normal people do. In fact, I really can't complain because I have a great job, perhaps the best job I've ever had, but it's still quite a change from University life. As I enter my fourth year, and the twilight of my University experience, I'm happy that I have one more year in academia before I take the necessary plunge into the so-called real world.

I'm happy to be at the University where I have four-day weeks with no Friday classes. I'm happy that during the school year I can sleep until 10 or 11 and still fulfill all of my obligations.

As much as I'm enjoying happy hour on Capitol Hill, and the bars in Georgetown, I'm happy that I can continue going to fraternity parties, Buddhist, Coupe's and Biltmore.

I'm happy not to be living in a big city, but in a rundown house named Bill. (I'm still not sure how it got that name.) For all of Bill's problems, like the holes in the wall, the lack of heat in the kitchen, and the sink that drains into the parking lot, it is probably the coolest house in Charlottesville. And it's certainly the most broken down place I'll ever live in, but it reeks of shabby charm--something you'll never find in a new apartment building.

I'm happy to be able to spend Saturday afternoons drinking beers on my broken-down couch on my broken-down porch at Bill. I'm happy that my friends live across the street and down the block, not 20 minutes away in some distant suburban development.

I'm happy I have the leisure and freedom accorded to academic pursuits. As students, we are in a pretty special and pretty wonderful situation. We have the ability to spend our time debating serious ideas and literature. We are given the freedom to just sit on our porch and write--one of the luxuries that we may not have again for a long time.

I'm happy being a University student, and I'm sad that I have just one more year left. For those of you entering your first year, remember how you feel now, think about it, write it down, because all too soon, you'll be where I am, with just one more year of craziness, one more year of foolishness, one more year before you have to start figuring out your career and your life.

Unfortunately, many of us don't know how lucky we are. We complain about too much schoolwork, about friends, about finals. People talk about anxiety and stress. People always talk about stress.

We ought to take a step back and realize how fortunate we are. It's easy to recognize this over the summer, after that last blue book is filled out and the last paper is handed in, but we should recognize what a great situation we're in year round.

Charlottesville may be a little out of the way, it may be just a college town, and it may not be the vaunted real world. But for those of you moving here for the first time, you'll love it, you'll start to call it home and, strangely, you'll start calling the place where you grew up your parents' home.

For incoming first years--yes, that's the lingo, but don't get too caught up with the Mr. Jefferson's University business--you are in the best position of anybody at the University. You have four years ahead of you where you're on your own, but away from careers and cities. You have a break before you must tackle the rest of your life, where you can walk to everything you need, laugh at the notion of commutes and perhaps most importantly where you can live in a place like Bill and love it.

(Peter Brownfeld is a rising fourth-year College student.)


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