Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Back in the Blogosphere

I realize my two-month summer hiatus. Since I last posted I've been to Guatemala as an amateur dentist with a church group, the Delaware Water Gap for some birthday camping (I turned 23 on July 12th), Cape May for a family beach vacation, Chicago for the Lollapalooza music festival, and Vermont to visit Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, my uncle's family, and my grandpa. A post dedicated to Guatemala is coming soon.

When my dad goes to the grocery store, he buys whatever is on sale and sometimes without looking at the label. Cereal was on sale this week. The box he brought home said: "NEW! Unfrosted" My cereal spirit has never been so dejected. Honestly, who wants UNfrosted Miniwheats? C'mon Kellogg's, you're breaking my heart (or maybe rescuing it).

As I was on the verge of closing down my AmeriCorps email account today, I came across peculiar message in my inbox:

Hi guys, Is the Andy White mentioned on your website the same Andy White who drummed on the first single of The Beatles? I gather he now lives in New Jersey. If so I would like to contact Andy for interview in a new book about The Beatles. Many thanks, Martin Creasy (author of Legends On Tour - The Pop Package Tours Of The 1960s).

Uh, yes Mister Creasy, in fact it was me who drummed on that first single of the Beatles. Any thoughts?

I've interacted with quite a few people younger than me over the last year or so. Some of them were in high school. Some were already in college. As a college graduate, I offered each of them these four pieces of advice:

1. Go to class --It's really easy to skip lectures, especially if you're hungover or it's a Friday, but why would you do that? When I was at Gettysburg College, a few of us did the calculations. Each lecture costs over $100, with one hundred being a conservative estimate. Why waste the money? Why waste the education? Because I went to class, I didn't have to spend as much time studying on my own and catching up on things I had missed and I ended up earning good grades. There are so many people out there who would be damn happy for the opportunity to go to college. If you are blessed with the privilege to be there, then GO. Woody Allen sums it up: "Eighty percent of success is showing up."

2. Do not go Greek --There are exceptions to this, but if your school is anything like Gettysburg, then you ought to stay away from the frats and sororities. In essence, each greek group has a personality and you get the chance to pick which one you want to be like. In your first year, you get to sample each one by way of parties and various events. By year's end, you probably have a good idea about which greek brothers or sisters you admire most and where you'd fit in best. Why become a greek clone when you can develop into your own person independently? Greek values, from my experience, are not very good ones. Getting shwasted and getting laid seem to be the things at the top of their to-do lists.

3. Study abroad --Do it. That's all I can say. You will certainly come back anew with a changed perspective about pretty much everything. It doesn't matter where you go, just GO. Mark Twain says it well: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."

4. Choose courses based on the professor who teaches the course, not the subject of the course --I know for some majors you may not have a lot of flexibility when putting together a course schedule, but trust me on this one. If you've heard a bunch of your friends yapping about just how awesome their Sociology professor is, it's usually not by fluke. The approbation or negativity of the yaps is often a good indicator on how much you'll get out of a course. Students don't praise professors who suck (obviously), nor do they praise professors who don't give homework (they just say "easy A"). The students praise the ones who are intelligent, entertaining, and challenging--the ones who make you better. The enthusiasm of a professor can be contagious. You can tell which professors are there because they want to sculpt the young minds of the future and which ones are there because that's just what they were asked to do. Let's just say I learned more pertinent life skills in college from an engaging ceramics class than I did from a litany of poorly taught science courses.

Any other college tips you would add?

My AmeriCorps exit interview was last week. I am done with that now. These days I'm at home sifting through piles of AmeriCorps-related literature that have accumulated over the past year, extracting only the goods. I'm also preparing for the GRE test and beginning to search for graduate school programs. I would like to start in Fall 2009.

It's nice to be back.