Follow your interests at MSU, whether it takes four years or six
I will graduate MSU when I am 24 years old, after six years of being in college. That’s three years past the legal drinking age, six past the age of nicotine allowance and high school graduation and eight past that first luxury of driving a car.
Do I feel old? Somewhat. Do I feel as if I’ve slacked? At times. Do I dread the thought of explaining this extended venture to extended family? Of course.
But, most importantly, do I feel more prepared for that “real world” our academic advisors and relatives are so keen to warn of? Yes, and a college trajectory cut two years shorter to that standard for years would’ve yielded an opposite answer.
Incoming class of 2019, what follows is not the monologue of a failed Van Wilder seeking commiseration in some of your own future lengthy stays or solidarity in partying for as long as possible on government loans, but an appeal to the passion and curiosity that are so often forgotten in the mad rush to complete college in four years or deafened by frivolous lazing and intoxicated escape.
These aforementioned habits warned against are all the more easier to take up when we view our time at MSU as somehow separate from the world of autonomous individuals whose choices shape their future. Notions of some “real world” waiting for us after we emerge from MSU with degree in hand are patently false; We’re a part of it the moment we arrive on campus — with the parental guiding hand far from view, the decisions and their consequences are our own.
This is precisely why I will graduate MSU when I am 24 years old — I’ve switched majors from mathematics to English to journalism and, finally, to philosophy.
Although this indecisive course to graduation might yield criticism from the pragmatist, who mourns all those “wasted” credit hours and tuition dollars (much as I do), the conversations with professors in different fields and friendships with classmates with varying interests have been invaluable to understanding our social world in a receptive, critical manner rather than the one-dimensional, hyper-specialized way that marks the decided freshman.
While that last remark is certainly a generalization, I wish only to stress this, however long it adds to your college stay: take a class or two or three on a topic you’re interested in. Be it painting, drawing, boxing, bowling, fiction, poetry, singing or trombone playing, MSU offers a course on it. And while it might not pertain to your major, getting to know others who share similar passions to yours is invaluable in forging a tight-knit group of friends who encourage your pursuits and extend beyond the formed-of-necessity relations that most often are those shared with first-year roommates and hall mates.
Not everyone at MSU spends the entirety of their weekends either a) studying or b) partying, and it follows that people with different interests take part in different activities over the weekend. I encourage you to find these people. I encourage you to find out why it is they do the things they do. Because, if you inquire, you might find a view of the world that challenges the way you spend your time and the things you find valuable.
Our time at MSU is more than our obtaining/becoming a “marketable” skill set; It’s a time to explore that first taste of real independence we’ve ever had. Given that, for some, the independence is guided by parental expectation and, for most, the time is marked by an ever-mounting pile of debt to our names, nonetheless, mobilize your time at MSU — be it four years or six — for the pursuit of passion and interest.
The only shame in a lengthy college career is one that takes pride in frivolous lazing and partying. That is not dismiss going out for an energetic night on the town, but remember the people you talk with, the conversations you have.
College is not a four-year trudge of resume building and it not the “best four years of your life,” college is a time of asking questions about yourself, your future and your surroundings, attempting to answer them and, more importantly, acting on those answers so that you will not reminisce on a period of life as having been the best but that you will, years into the future, look back with the knowledge of having lived the best life possible.
That knowledge requires having curiosity, conversing with a variety of people and jumping headlong into clubs, internships and other pursuits that might come to naught but, nonetheless, provide an expanded view of the “real world.”
From the suit-clad power players of the state Capitol, to the more informally-dressed denizens of local dive bars, the diversity of people in the East Lansing-Lansing area will only aid in that trial of character building, if you’re courageous enough to be curious, ask questions and take leaps.
Take four years, take six, take as long as it takes to confidently answer that your time at MSU was well worth it.