By: ANDREW KOERNER – MECHANICAL ENGINEERING
As a soon–to-be 5th year student here at The University of Dayton, I find myself in a bit of a strange place.
I’m preparing to say goodbye to a good chunk of my friends as they go off to new and exciting faraway lands, and when I see the tears on their faces I can’t help but feel as if I’ve cheated the college experience.
I’m certainly not the first or last student to have a 5th year at UD, but I understand that what I have is an opportunity that many don’t get and one that many would kill for. This got me thinking about expectations. To those of you graduating, did you live up to them?
Or did you even have them to begin with? Some say that the root of happiness is having zero expectations. I think this is true to a certain extent, but if that’s your mantra you’re ultimately living in blissful ignorance; it’s important to have a vision of where you are going, but it’s equally important to take each moment as it comes to you.
I certainly didn’t have many expectations coming into UD; when I declared mechanical engineering as my major the only vision I had for myself was sitting at a desk working tirelessly on homework for the next four years of my life.
As a freshman I heard all the hoopla about “community” but never truly understood what it meant. When I reflect on it, it was because I wasn’t allowing myself to fully experience community through all the opportunities UD had; I was trapped in my one expectation for myself: I would work hard and be happy as a result. If you asked me to tell you the best part about my freshman year, I’d struggle to tell you anything. To be blunt, it was very bland and I have no one but myself to blame for that.
For those of you who aren’t graduating, heed my words: college is what you make of it. For me, my best UD memories started after I made a conscious decision to do what I like to call “all of the things.”
Doing all of the things is an idea very similar to that which molds the movie “Yes Man,” and is inherently exactly what it sounds like.
In October of 2012 I intentionally filled each weekend with a different experience. In chronological order it went like this: Real Dayton fall breakout, Dayton River Corridor Half Marathon (my first half marathon), a visit to the University of Dayton Summer Appalachia Program house in Salyersville, Kentucky, and the Lighthouse Retreat. I could write a separate article on each of these experiences, but all that’s important to know is that I lived more in that month than I had in my entire first two years at UD.
Over that month I also made some of the best friends of my life. This is when I finally started to comprehend the beauty of community. I made beautiful friendships from each of those four experiences. And, when all of those communities are on the same campus, a five minute walk through KU has the potential to erupt into a ridiculously beautiful community explosion.
This is what I will remember when I eventually graduate, and it’s the best part because I never expected it; beauty lies in unpredictability.
Seniors, could you imagine if they told us on our first day of orientation that the men’s basketball team wouldn’t get into the NCAA tournament until we were seniors BUT they’d make a Cinderella run to the Elite 8? Would this last month have been nearly as enjoyable if they had?
As a UD student, your mission is to experience community and share it with as many people as you can. You can do this any number of ways and can start at any time. Just go do.
Seniors, if you feel you didn’t live up to the expectations you had for yourself, I personally guarantee you that you had a great impact on someone’s life in some way you can’t even fathom.
When I was a freshman, it was seniors who mentored me twice a week when I was struggling in engineering classes, it was a senior who first recommended a visit to the Appalachian Mountains and a senior who convinced me to apply to become a resident assistant. If you know me, those contribute a large part to the person I am today.
My expectation for those of you graduating is to go out into the world and be just as amazing to others as the people on this campus have been to you.
When you leave, don’t be ashamed when the tears start to fall uncontrollably, rejoice in knowing you had something that could make you cry like that.