In my four years at the University of Dallas, I have learned a thing or two. Although it is a cliché, it has, for me, been true that these have been the best four years of my life (so far). I have grown tremendously and changed enormously since I arrived on campus as a freshman, and I cannot imagine that anyone could graduate from UD without being changed for the better. As a senior, I offer some advice for those of you who will be returning here next year.
1. Find a mentor. There is far more to professors than teaching classes. Develop a mentorship with someone you respect academically, but more importantly, someone to whom you can relate on matters outside of the classroom. Use your classes as a stepping-stone to form a true friendship.
2. Get involved – and give back. What do you care about? Whether it is pro-life activism, disadvantaged teens or the environment, find a way to use your abilities to help out. If there isn’t a club on campus that is doing the work you want to do, start one.
3. Be engaged. UD is your community, and what happens on campus affects you. Stay updated on what is going on, and add to the conversation. Read the paper (shameless plug, sorry), take the surveys that the university sends out and talk to your student government representatives.
4. Get out of the Bubble. Dallas is an incredible city just waiting to be explored. Because Dallas-Fort Worth is such a huge and international metroplex, the possibilities are endless. In addition to great permanent cultural institutions such as the Dallas Museum of Art, the city often draws big name shows, exhibits and events. And don’t forget Irving! It is easy to disparage our little part of DFW, but Irving holds a number of hidden gems.
5. Try new things. It is very possible that you will never be as flexible with your schedule as you are in college. Go rock climbing with Verso l’alto Venture Club or eat samosas while watching Bollywood movies with the Indian Film and Culture Club. If something on campus (or off!) sounds the least bit interesting, don’t be afraid to give it a try.
6. Immerse yourself. You are here to get an education, so you might as well enjoy it. Take classes that interest you instead of courses with impressive-sounding names or courses that are “easy A’s.” Take the time to engage with the class and truly understand it. Do the reading. Talk to the professor. Wrestle with the important questions. What you learn is much more important than the grade you get.
7. Find a balance. Spend time with friends, but don’t forget to study. Study hard, but don’t forget to sleep. Sleep when you can, but don’t forget to get some exercise. Exercise, but don’t forget to…you get the idea. College should teach you time management. It is a time to really work on all aspects of yourself, so find the healthy balance that works for you.
8. Make time for your faith life. Sometimes I take for granted that I live in a place where I can walk to Mass. Mass, Confession and adoration are so readily available here that it is easy to forget what a privilege that is. Take advantage of the beautiful culture of faith here. And don’t forget to participate in the faith community. It is rare to find a place where the majority of people are so open to discussing their faith.
9. It’s all about the people. At the end of the day, the most valuable investment you can make is in other people. There are so many wonderful people at this university, all of them worth knowing. My fellow staff members at The University News, for instance, are phenomenal human beings. Take the time to get to know your fellow students, your professors and other members of the UD community. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone, and give everyone a chance.
10. Be irresponsible. I once read a Red Bull advertisement that said, “Nobody ever wishes they’d slept more in college.” I’m not advising you to drink Red Bull; it tastes disgusting and may cause your heart to spontaneously combust. But their advertising team has a point. You won’t tell stories about the time you went to bed at 10 p.m. and felt great the next day. You should not be running yourself into the ground by pulling several all-nighters in a row, but a great night is worth more than a few hours of sleep. Stay up until 4 a.m. talking with friends. Go see that local band perform in Deep Ellum on a Tuesday.
11. On a similar note, take chances. Be bold and daring. Attempt something that you might not be able to do. Take on a challenge that you might fail. Take on a challenge that you will probably fail. Ask questions that might have no answers. Test your limits, and you will surprise yourself.
12. Live it up. During my years in college, I have honestly felt that the whole world was open to me – and during my semester in Rome, it literally was. Take advantage of every opportunity and make the most of it. I may be throwing out clichés again, but people say these things for a reason. I have never regretted anything I have ever done. I have only regretted what I have not done.