I tend not to present my life story to anyone and everyone as if they might care. It feels pretentious.
At the same time, I love hearing about other people’s experiences and perspectives. So I understand that some might find the story of student in their final year at Goshen College helpful and maybe even compelling.
But giving advice still feels pompous. Instead I’d give you my experience compared against a solid theory someone told me about the stages of college in four parts:
Part 1: “Freshman don’t know anything and don’t know it.”
I literally came to Goshen straight off the farm, physically and somewhat mentally. There are so many smart people at Goshen College, from professors and students to Physical Plant staff and librarians. I was intimidated immediately and tried to make up for it by sounding as smart as all the people around me. Though I know that my academic skills did improve, I also cringe knowing how many big words I used without really knowing their meaning.
Part 2: “Sophomores think they know everything.”
Something I genuinely learned by second year was that people thought I was funny. In my second year, I was really becoming more insecure about my competency at my newfound history major, but I covered it by being a smart aleck. Making people laugh, whether it’s at a table at the Rott or from the stage in Sauder Concert Hall, gives one a sense of control and cleverness that can often be a mask for other insecurities.
I also went on SST my sophomore year, which is a great time to face up to all your insecurities if there ever was one.
Part 3: “Juniors are beginning to question what they really know.”
Another thing that SST did for me was make me more comfortable living with big questions rather than easy answers. And man, did I have questions. I cranked out so many proposals and papers and projects last year, I could paper my walls with them.
While it may seem like I mostly hide in the library (though partly true), I couldn’t be the mediocre student I am without developing a good social support system. Friends that put up with existential break-downs. Friends that share their own hopes and fears so that you know you’re not alone.
But let’s be real, I also needed some sick flamenco guitar music to get through the hardest projects. My singular unsolicited advice: listen to Rodrigo y Gabriela. It will change your life.
Part 4: “Seniors know that they don’t know anything.”
I accept that I am fully in this last stage. I don’t mean to say that I’ve learned absolutely nothing in my time at Goshen College. I invested in an education and received teaching, guidance, resources and experiences. These three years have given me the opportunity to find my voice and communicate in diverse ways.
I have learned so much and in so many different ways that I am filled with countless questions and doubts. This isn’t a source of despair for me, but rather hope. I will continue to listen and be humbled by what I learn.
Because I also know that the point of financing $40,000 a year isn’t so that other people have to listen to my opinions. You don’t pay to receive knowledge and then contribute it all yourself.
No, I’ll be saving my best knowledge to divulge for the day when somebody’s paying me. ($40,000 a year would be great, but I’ll keep my expectations low for now.)