Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Finals and finality

As the weather warms and the days get longer, finals are upon us. Once again will college students resume the tradition of late night cramming, accelerated paper writing, and living on a healthy diet of caffeine, no-doze, cigarettes, and fingernails?

There are students out there that throughout the semester planned for finals, took detailed notes, and linked class topics together to create a grand narrative to which they will expound in their blue books. But unfortunately, most of us aren’t them.

Across the nation students will be piling into libraries, be it Pattee Library at Penn State , Draughon Library at Auburn , or College Library at UCLA , and feverishly cramming as much information about the 30 Years War, thermoclines, and French literature into their heads as possible. Once the last paper is turned in, the last Scantron penciled-in, and the last blue book filled with facts, students may utter a sigh of relief and look back at the past couple weeks with a sense of accomplishment.

For those of us who are lucky enough to have survived this period, we may have forgotten the challenges of finals because we’ve been inundated time and time again with our jobs and lives. But remember, while in life seems to be much more intense than anything College had to offer, it is a slow burn of responsibilities, not a downpour of fleeting knowledge.

And for what is this rite of passage that finals are for? The finality of university study, a cap and gown, commencement speeches the movers and shakers of the world, and an expensive piece of paper that tells the world that you made it!

But graduation is a solemn time for many, a sign that after years of hard study and harder dedication, they have risen to the challenge and now face an even greater challenge, the unstructured joy of self determination. For now the real challenge of life begins, where your learning is not based on the whim of a professor or course advisor, and you can determine the path you want to take.

College is an interesting incubation period, halfway between the supervised days under your parents’ roof and the responsibility laden time that waits after college. It lets us develop into rounded individuals, who at the time may scoff at the idea that knowing German will ever come in handy until they find themselves lost in the back alleys of Dusseldorf, with a sense of accomplishment.


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