Relish in your life at Wash. U.
I was fortunate enough to spend last fall studying abroad at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. It was a tremendous experience, to say the least. The people there were unbelievably nice, the classes were fairly easy, and a short drive out of the city put me in scenery that made me feel like I was in Middle Earth. Despite having a great time, I was surprised to find that there were quite a few things that I missed about Wash. U. while I adjusted to life at a new university in a new country. As someone who has, in his columns, frequently been critical of various aspects of Wash. U., my newfound perspective made me realize I owe it some words of gratitude as well.
Even compared to the best university in New Zealand, a wealthy and highly developed nation, Wash. U. is leaps and bounds ahead in a number of areas. One example that popped out at me was how pampered we are as students. The idea that we have housekeepers that clean our dorm room bathrooms was simply laughable to my flat mates in New Zealand. In fact, I lived in a building where heavy fines were imposed on residents who did not pass rigorous “room inspections” twice a semester. Another difference I noted was the total lack of a university-run food service. Students in Auckland are simply left to fend for themselves for breakfast, lunch and dinner. After feeding for myself for five months, I will be delighted to be back on a meal plan and not have to, get this, actually pay cash to get Subway! Being able to lie in bed and watch last week’s episode of “The Office” over high-speed wireless will also be nice; in New Zealand, the concept of unlimited Internet access does not exist.
Perhaps more important than the creature comforts that I once took for granted is the quality of the lecturers we all enjoy. Compared to my experience abroad, the amount that lecturers at Wash. U. care about and engage with their students is extraordinary. I missed this in particular when I had several e-mails simply ignored by a professor in New Zealand. I look forward to being able to raise my hand in lectures and ask for a clarification, or to have an after-class conversation with a professor again.
Studying abroad opened my eyes to a lot of things. It made me realize that “living independently” at Wash. U. is not quite what living out in the real world will be like. It made me grateful for a lot of things that I had taken for granted ever since I set foot on the South 40. Like any college students, Wash. U. students love to complain. I have been guilty of doing so nearly every other week in this very newspaper, and I might even continue to do so on occasion. After all, Wash. U. is not a perfect world; it’s just a lot closer to perfect than I previously thought.