Off-campus activity (n.) — indicates a Bubble-bursting experience, taking us into the great unknown and exposing us to individuals who do not spend 12 hours a week reading the classics.
While growing up (a process not complete but begun fairly long ago), my dad was always rooting for us to try new things. He firmly believed, with G. K. Chesterton, that “no man should leave in the universe anything of which he is afraid.” While I entertain not even a shadow of a doubt that I was blessed with the best parents in the world, I suspect that this piece of parental advice was not exclusively given to my siblings and me. Challenges given out of love and encouragement through trusting belief are characteristic of many parents of University of Dallas students, as an almost-necessary formation for the successful student.
Now many of us are pretty far from our parents, old friends and confidants. We stay in touch, and while we know they love us, they can’t challenge us in the same ways. In fact, nobody can. We have all come to the gray area where we are becoming slowly but surely independent. We must learn to issue our own self-directed challenges.
One of the best ways to do this is by getting off campus. Whether it is a club or volunteer activity, regular or spontaneous excursion, there is nothing more necessary for the UD student than a healthy dose of the real world. Indeed, one of the greatest differentiators of UD from its competitors is its placement in Texas, a very real-world kind of place. Dallas is still being built; we can take part in its building through internships and volunteering. Dallas is still looking for political, cultural and social solutions to enormous challenges; we can help shape the solutions. This isn’t always an easy task, but it is a necessary one. Given the depth of our education, it would be selfish not to become involved in these projects.
It is also, quite frankly, very healthy for us to once in a while separate ourselves from campus life. It is easy here to become too comfortable, to think we have all the answers or that the answers are simply buried in next year’s core classes. Yet, when we actually venture forth, we realize that the context surrounding the questions cannot be adequately conveyed in the classroom. It is both a humbling and an empowering experience to realize that our education is an incomplete gift that is only valuable if put into action.
We have a tendency to become more familiar with the political situation of ancient Athens than of modern Washington, D.C. Events like Pope Francis’ visit and the nearby arrest of young clockmaker Ahmed Mohammed especially remind us that we must challenge ourselves in more than our intellectual lives and campus community by venturing into the world off campus.