College offers more than just academics

Scott Hansen

Even though I won’t graduate on time this spring, I feel like I’ve spent plenty of time on this campus.

At least, enough time to pick up the ins and outs, dos and don’ts and maybe even a few valuable life lessons.

Call it a slow news week or a bleak attempt to entertain and rescue this section from infinitely depressing topics, but I have compiled a list of the six most valuable and completely random lessons I reckon college has to offer. Enjoy.

6. Van Wilder lied.

In the real world there seems to be this unexplainable fantasy of what college life is like. That fantasy usually involves beautiful people having the time of their lives, having the most outrageous parties and somehow still being productive members of society. That pipe dream, of course, is only fueled by silver screen depictions such as “Van Wilder” or even that absurd song about loving college. College is way less fun and way more responsibility. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be, but I somehow felt duped after my first semester of school. I mean, seriously, I have never been to a legitimate toga party and I have taken in way more sunrises with incomplete papers than with good friends or a beautiful girl.

It’s always interesting to hear old timers’ stories about college. You know, the ones that always end in ‘College is the best four years of your life!’ Have things changed that much? Or are they over glorifying their youth? Where did we go wrong?

5. Living on campus commodities is a great way to go broke.

Far, far from the fairytale brochure land where grinning students whip out Blugold cards for iced mochas to enjoy beautiful afternoons in the Davies Center, there is a place known as the student ghetto. It’s a place squeezed between Water Street and Farwell, cracked in the middle by a river. A place where Ramen noodles warm the bellies of students at home between classes hoping to steal away from the harsh realties of campus life . at least the realities for students who pay their own way through school.

The sad truth is that in addition to every other aspect of our your education, such as things like books and “course fees,” the university even sticks it to you on basic needs, like food. I think as a young student there’s a general assertion that Davies is the place to be, the place to have lunch with your friends . just a cool place to hang out.

But what is quickly realized is there isn’t much going on there. What’s worse is it’s not even really an affordable hangout on a student budget. The smallest items such as soda and cookies are a good 50 to 75 cents higher there than anywhere else and the best food Davies has to offer – and I use the term ‘best’ loosely, it’s all been downhill since Blimpie’s left – will cost you around $6 for anything that even resembles an actual meal.

Six dollars can buy a lot of things, even things that aren’t soggy and old, believe it or not.

4. The ‘freshman experience’ is real.

Here’s the part where I get 400 letters to the editor saying ‘I told you so.’ The reality is that most of those ‘lame,’ required freshman experience courses and activities are actually worthwhile.

I remember tours of the university where guides absolutely harped on living in the dorms. I, of course, refused to be trapped in a box with someone I didn’t know and exercised my rights as a ‘towny’ to live at home. Now, years later, I look at my friends and their friends. There are a lot of lasting friendships and good times that can be missed out on by not living in the dorms and participating in campus activities. Sure people get sick of it, but in the end it’s worth it . unless you truly are a crabby, antisocial recluse. Plus you can put the dorms on your tab, rent you can’t. That delays the real world at least a year or two.

3. Liberal is not synonymous with open-minded.

The good news is by coming to college you will experience ideas you wouldn’t find in your ritzy suburban mansion or in the shack you call home in Timbuktu. The bad news is many of those experiences will seriously question who you really are as a person. If you’re white and middle class – which most of us are, it is Eau Claire – you will be told you desperately need diversity. If your religious beliefs hold homosexuality as immoral, you will be called hateful. If you use the word “girl” around the wrong person, you may be called sexist. If you eat animals, you’re cruel and if you’re just plain traditional . well, you’re probably not progressive enough to survive around here. There is no room for strong minds in college, only room for subscribing to the views of others. Experiencing things is great, but take a liberal campus atmosphere for what it’s worth.

2. There are two kinds of professors.

In my experience, there are only two kinds of professors: realistic, intelligent people who truly connect with students and care for their professional and academic growth . and pretentious knobs that spend entire semesters demonstrating to their students just how smart they are, providing little if any education at all. See Ratemyprofessor.com.

1. In college someone is always smarter than you.

But don’t feel bad, there’s always someone dumber than you, too.

If there’s one unfortunate thing about the educated, it’s that too many people use a degree as an excuse to walk around with their nose in the air.

No matter how good of a writer, scientist or mathematician you are, there are 10,000 kids around and someone is probably better than you. And if you happen to be the best at your university, there’s definitely someone better than you amongst the millions of students in the country.

The best news, though, is that philosophy offers you complete and total freedom to be exactly what you want to be. You can always improve, or you can cut yourself some slack when things don’t go right.

Either way, you’re just one more kid fighting the good fight.

Rob’s Reckoning’s is a weekly column. Hanson, The Spectator’s editorial editor, can be reached at [email protected]