Daniel Orazio, Contributing Writer
Choosing to attend the University of Dallas was easily the best decision I’ve ever made. To have spent four years reading Vergil with Dr. Maurer, Milton with Dr. Alvis, and Aquinas with Dr. Mirus — to say nothing of talking baseball with Dr. Moran, Dr. Stryer and a certain crusty middle-aged Vermonter from the mailroom — and I haven’t said a word yet about my peers? It was quite a wonderful four years.
It could have been better, though. I want to say something here about how it could have been better, in the hope that a student reading this will learn something to apply productively to his own life at UD.
For one thing, I didn’t work hard enough. Greek and Latin Prose Composition, respectively, demanded of me everything I had just to stay afloat, but otherwise I never gave even 90 percent to a single one of my classes. I consistently prioritized socializing, e-mail, Facebook and surfing the web over reading great books, memorizing Greek verb conjugations and understanding gamma rays. It is true that most of what you learn in college you learn outside the classroom. What this means, though, is not that you should spend most of your time hanging out with friends, but that you should spend much of your time in the library.
Funny enough, I was so weird as a freshman (what Crusader isn’t?) that I rarely used the library…out of fear. Fear of what? The older kids. Seriously. I “studied” in Madonna Hall freshman year because I was too self-conscious to sit at tables among juniors and seniors. Even sophomores scared me. As you may know, no work gets done in Madonna’s common spaces. I knew this, yet I still didn’t make the treks up to Blakely. My GPA suffered accordingly, and I reinforced bad work habits from high school that bedeviled me the next three years.
I was obstinate in my bad habits, in fact. It occurred to me regularly that I really oughtn’t goof off every day and early evening, because that’s how I ended up starting work at 9 or 10 at night and then going to class a) exhausted and b) not having understood that book of the “Iliad” or the “Ethics” that I read, while exhausted, the night before. It occurred to me regularly that I ought to go to the library by day (and sleep by night); it occurred to me also that making a schedule might help me to prioritize well and get my work done. Yet despite all this “occurring,” no change ever occurred.
I did other silly things at UD, like major in classics but skip Dr. Swietek’s ancient-history sequence and stop taking Greek senior year. Also, I knew that a 5 on the AP Modern European History exam was not equivalent to West Civ II with Dr. Sullivan but, for some reason, never signed up for his class to gain the knowledge and perspective that I craved. Finally, I allowed myself to be swept up in the UD grad-school air last spring and didn’t consider applying for a job. I am now in a master’s program, but I feel burnt out. Based on the experience of several of my current classmates, I feel sure that a year or two in the workforce, at a good job or a wretched one, would have enabled me to refresh, recharge and then enter graduate school with fire in my belly and joy at returning to the classics. In a word, I wish I were Matthew deGrood right now, sitting in my shirtsleeves in Nacogdoches, covering baseball for The Daily Sentinel.
Okay, Okay. The way I’ve written this, you may have forgotten how I began: I love UD and loved my time at UD. At this school I grew in knowledge and wisdom and sanctity. I didn’t, though, ever get into a good sleep pattern (I was tired each day for four years), or learn how I learned (so as to have a better chance at mastering those Greek verb paradigms), or work half as diligently as did so many students around me. Naturally, I never understood Aquinas, I hardly remember Milton, and I can’t read Vergil with any facility. What’s far worse, I still create needless problems for myself, in my academic and personal lives, by not keeping to a schedule and doing work as it’s assigned.
Dear reader, use your time at UD to develop good habits, to study long and hard, and to become intimate with the great authors of the Core. Get good at something, and feel a sense of accomplishment, and put yourself in a position to succeed — with no pointless, unnecessary stress — at whatever you choose to do.