The Lucky Ones

Emily Meringolo, Writer

In this highly-competitive university situated in the middle of rural Pennsylvania, we have everything we could possibly want from a prestigious institution. And not to knock the Residential Colleges, but the University as a whole is an integrated learning community. The intimate environment of our campus enables us to share what we are learning in class with those around us. Notably, we have the capacity to share the knowledge we acquire in class and through our coursework with our peers, and this is an incredibly rewarding and enriching reality. Our supposed “thirst for knowledge” which we all plastered on our applications a short while ago is still thriving within us and is, for the most part, satiated by coursework and class participation. The question is whether we are engaging these same passions equally outside of the classroom. A general consensus is that we are too busy—too consumed by classroom demands—to participate in extracurricular endeavors. Are we sincerely too busy to transcend the confines of the classroom or is this just an illusory excuse we fabricate in attempt to justify our laziness? Perhaps it is both.

We as students are fortunate to be here. If we take a moment to acknowledge the myriad of resources available to students at this institution, it is simultaneously unfathomable and at times overwhelming. And don’t get me started on the captivating campus aesthetics: the beautiful brick buildings; the impeccably maintained lawns (when there isn’t a polar vortex, of course); and the pristine condition of the art labs, classrooms, and libraries. Oh, and did I mention the brilliant and dedicated professors who are committed to student success and achievement? Yes, we are so incredibly fortunate, and unsurprisingly, all of these qualities underscored our decision to attend this school. Yet it is so easy to become accustomed to our way of life in the ’burg. We experience sensory deprivation to it all. To generalize, we go to class, maybe engage in some clubs or intramural sports, do homework until the wee hours of the night, and then go out during the weekends. It becomes a despairing, repetitive cycle that lulls us into a false sense of security. But college shouldn’t be about habit, routine, or security! It should be about taking chances, trying new things, and engaging in new and unexpected experiences. It is about taking the factual, textual knowledge and insights instilled within us in our cozy classroom settings and actively applying them to the world around us. 

We would all benefit immensely—both personally and academically—if we took the time to check out the amazing speakers, alumni events, multicultural/religious organizations, major/minor related talks, and the arts and sports programs our school offers. I just attended the Arts Merit Scholars dinner where Associate Professor of Dance Kelly Knox gave a wonderfully eye-opening glimpse of the resources we have here, even just within the arts community. Yet, by and large these events are not highly attended by the school. Why? These amazing events are funded by our tuitions. Duke University recently released a statement to NPR saying that they invest $90,000 into every student attending their school and that $60,000 is “a discount” for their education. I’m sure our University would release a statement similar to that as we are in the same situation. Our tuition is seemingly astronomical, but the school is investing to subsidize our education as we expand our campus, fund guest lectures, and more.

Ultimately, what I want to drive home is that we should find our own initiative to engage in our passions or at least acknowledge the resources we have at our disposal. Of course, coursework and class participation should always be the top priority (it is college, after all). But who says learning is exclusive to 52-minute classes three times a week? Who says knowledge can only be obtained from textbooks and PowerPoint slides? There are many mediums for acquiring knowledge and in fact, a majority of the events, lectures, and film-screenings offered are intended to supplement and substantiate the material we engage in our courses. That being said, I implore all of you to take advantage of the events sponsored by our campus—no excuses, justifications, or rationalizations, please! If you want to make the most of your college experience, you will fully engage your passions and interests both in and beyond the classroom.

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