Knowledge of humanity

In the past eight months, I have traveled to or lived in seven different countries, three distinct U.S. cities and made approximately 45 new friends. I was briefed on world crises by the United Nations, read letters from the American Revolution and stuffed a couple thousand envelopes just to keep myself grounded. As a student, I learned a great deal about the world through my experiences. I brush those thousands of facts to the side, however, to highlight what I learned as a person with thoughts, emotions and stories to trade.

I won’t bore you with the countless anecdotes and stories I acquired through my recent experiences; I thought it more relevant to take this first and welcoming issue of Student Life to encourage my peers here at Wash. U. to seek out similar lessons, even in what seems like an established and comfortable environment.

Lesson one: Being right is not always right. With the start of a new semester, professors and students will inevitably challenge your current thinking, writing and study patterns. Instead of stubbornly sticking to old ways, try something new (even if on a temporary basis) and consciously try to learn from it instead of spending your time complaining about the methodological inadequacy. This may seem obvious, as you are both the voice of and the ear to many complaints throughout different academic scenarios, but you’d be surprised at how well you have been trained in the ways of your school or discipline. In the end, you may well discover that your way is still better. The talent comes from recognizing this fact and moving on.

Lesson two: You can learn something from learning nothing. Though a scary thought in the context of Wash. U.’s elite community of nerds (I mean, academia), it’s a promising one in the real world. Some of my best “cultural exchanges” happened by accompanying my six-year-old host sister in her daily routine: coloring, craft time and online makeover games. That’s what college is all about. No, not the online makeover games, but rather turning every experience into one that is valuable and memorable. Some of the brightest young philosophies will be found in the hallways of our dorm buildings at 2 a.m., and if my guess is right, the most heated political debates at Wash. U. will not be the ones taking place between two vice presidential candidates in the fall. This campus is full of bright, inspiring intellectuals who are eager to challenge you equally in video games and the classroom.

Perhaps the best lessons learned are those you don’t at all realize are lessons until you have walked away with a new perspective and a box of drawings from a six-year-old. As you stare at words, formulas and grading curves, don’t forget about what you can take from the people sitting next to you and standing in front of you. No textbook will teach you how to trace a teddy bear.