Well, call up Iron Maiden and Ernest Hemingway because the clock is two minutes to midnight and the bell is about to toll for me. I’m about to leave you, UCR. I’ve had a great crusade despite every reeking tree and Gambino-less winter, and as I leave, I hope to touch the hearts of my fellow Highlanders. To the underclassmen, I share with you the three main things I did to complete college the fun way so that maybe you will make your own experience a better one. To my fellow seniors, I guess you can read this and weep to yourselves about how I did things better than you.
It’s ok, Don. We can’t all be winners.
1. Prevent a mid-life crisis
You need to pick a major that brings you more fun to your daily routine than Bailey’s in your morning coffee. Now I know people bash this into your heads from the moment you know what a college is, but said head-bashing must have caved your ears in, because some of you apparently haven’t listened. You picked something because you thought somebody would just give you a desk with your name on it the second after you grab your diploma. Or you picked something because your mom and dad are holding their affection hostage until you prove yourself as worthwhile progeny. Either way, you did it out of the idea that your future will be more comfortable that way.
Well, you know what? Comfort is for your butt, not your life. Comfort in your life is working your way up in a steady-paying job that’s too crappy to enjoy but too secure to leave, finding a spouse who you aren’t really into but will get the job done, popping out a few kids so you can shovel them the same stuff your parents shovelled you and then realizing one fateful pencil-pushing day that you let 40 years slip through your fingers and none of it gave you any satisfaction or meaning beyond reaching the next arbitrary checkpoint.
Don’t let this happen to you.
Instead, do what really gives you a reason to punch the world in the face every day for keeping your dreams back. You like physics? Work at it until you can take on Neil DeGrasse Tyson Rocky-style. Entomology your thing? Study the minds of cockroaches until you can learn to control them and take over the world. Is history really your passion? Learn everything you can about your favorite cultures — learn until you discover their hidden tombs and get up in there like you’re Indiana Jones. And speaking of Harrison Ford, that leads me to my next point.
2. Become Han Solo
There’s a very typical mode of going about your college education that we all first think is just what we have to do. You just have to sit in these lectures taking notes from a powerpoint so later on you can cram mere hours before you need to bubble in some junk, bullshit your way through a bluebook or turn in an essay that starts off with something like, “In today’s society …” If you think that’s just what the academic world of college is, then you are a robot. You are just beep-boopin’ your way to a barely bearable B-minus-average Bachelor’s. You, my friend, are C-3PO. Instead, you can and should be Han Solo — surging through asteroid fields and blasting away Greedos like you couldn’t give an ewok’s furry bottom about it.
For you degenerates who don’t understand “Star Wars” jargon, I’m saying that you should put yourselves in a position to take risks. One thing you can do is take more classes where the goal is to enrich your mind with open-ended musings — not crush your soul into a hard drive that saves facts you’ll only store until you can spew them onto a midterm or final and then promptly delete them. But more importantly, you have to schmooze with your professors. Visit them and give them love, and they will be much more encouraging (or at least forgiving) when you try to think outside the box. After all, most of them spend their time outside of class dealing with hungover and jaded grad students, so they’ll most likely relish a young mind that actually appreciates their weekly sermons.
So once you’ve put yourself in an environment that encourages exploration and have gotten into a good place with the overseers of said environment, you can run wild, man. Now is your time to shine, get weird and kick your mental Millenium Falcon into hyperspace. Creativity and charisma can allow you to turn three-hour assignments into 10-minute bits of fun. You’ll be able to write your essay about three lines of dialogue rather than an entire book or even turn in just one profane sentence for your final and call it a poem.
I’m not even joking here. I got an A+ for this.
But maybe you’ve done this and like Mick Jagger, you still can’t get no satisfaction with your college experience. Well, there’s one last thing you should do.
3. Flee the country
Let me get straight to the point here: There is probably no other time in your life when you’ll be able to go on an adventure and have it move you forward professionally. Studying abroad is going on vacation and getting college credit for it. If you find the right program, you’ll be able to explore a whole new corner on this great blue marble, have classes so small and tailor-fit to you that it feels like some innovative mentorship and then knock out up to five course requirements — all for possibly the same price as a quarter’s tuition plus summer sessions.
I mean really, how do most people complete their two last quarters of language? Toiling away at memorization and conjugation exercises only to take finals that always seemingly prioritize the single thing you didn’t study as much? My classmates abroad and I made a short film in the Tolkien-esque forest in front of our dorms; we wrote the script on a bus ride back from a long weekend in Prague just hours before it was due. Twenty weeks of everyday morning classes averted thanks to the production of “Jagd nach dem Grossman.”
More importantly, it changes you as a person. Ever read a negative “UCR Around the Globe?” Didn’t think so. Because it’s always fantastic and enlightening. It’s like high-fiving Buddha. I entered Europe a frightened boy oppressed by breadth requirements, and I left a confident man that needn’t focus on anything but my major. On top of that, I left with enough trinkets to make me look pretentious, moderate skills in parkour, tons of stories to endlessly annoy my friends and coworkers, a firm grasp on a foreign language and glorious facial hair. And after all, what else in life is worth pursuing other than glorious facial hair?
So there they are, my brothers and sisters — my last tips and tricks to make university awesome. I’ll be the first to admit that just because it worked for me, it won’t work just as well for all of you. However, I like to think these bits of wisdom from a weary soon-to-be-alumnus can be adopted to some degree by anybody. I hope for all of you to be able to pave your own way and end saying the same last words as myself: “It’s been an honor and hell of a lot of fun. Cheers.”