Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Learning

They say that graduating from college is the end of one story and the beginning of another. I don't really feel like this is a new chapter. Maybe it's because I am still living in the same apartment for now, or because I haven't started working. It just hasn't hit me yet. I'm more of the kind of person who, when faced with a big change, looks back and reflects. Well, here are a few things that I have come up with upon reflection.

- You have to find some way to stop and smell the roses. Sure, at times, I took some extra long study/project/homework breaks to catch up on my shows or play games, but I didn't really do anything that I couldn't do elsewhere. If you're like most people, you probably go out and "do stuff" more than I do. When you're at a place like UCLA, that's what you need to do. I told myself that I'd go "do stuff" more this year - my last year, but all the classwork prevented me from having the time to do so. At least that's how I justify it to myself. Those people who are able to juggle classes, work, and other activities, well, hats off to them, especially if they're engineering majors. I don't care about the whole "oh wow, I'm finally away from home. I can go crazy and experience the college life. I found those people annoying. But I do think that whether or not you believe it, you need to seek out something interesting that only this place can offer in order to get a feeling of fulfillment when you finally leave. I don't think I did.

- Going to class and keeping reasonable hours is important. Maybe you're very lucky, or maybe you have a photographic memory for everything. But for those who aren't, being lazy is not the way to go. One day during the first month of my first year in college, I decided that the walk from Hitch Suites to class was too long and arduous, so it was okay to skip class. I was going to be late anyway, and that would be embarrassing. Also, without parental supervision, staying up late was now an option. I'd never felt any need to stay up past 1:00 a.m. before, but after getting to college it seemed the norm. So I'd be like... "oh, it's 3:00 a.m. already. Oh well, I don't have an 8 a.m. class anyway, so I'll be able to get up." If you can wake up for a 9 o'clock class with less than six hours of sleep the previous night, then kudos to you. But I could not. This lethal combination of supposedly justifiable class-skipping and pointless late nights set a dangerous precedent and would haunt me later... or rather, sooner.

- Going to class is important, again. As part of the whole fulfillment thing, it's important to note that some classes are actually fun to go to. I might be talking to a minority here. Not a racial minority, mind you, because believe me, the few African Americans that were in my engineering classes were probably the smartest, and they always went to class. But there is a sizable group of people in the engineering school that just vanish during the quarter, showing their faces only on the first day, to size up the professor, and during midterms and finals. Sometimes they don't even show up to the midterm because they missed the (in-class) memo. After having a mid-career epiphany, I had much more fun going to class than I did skipping it, especially after the grades came out. Engineering classes might not all be fun and games, but if it is your major, you should be able to find some enjoyment out of your required classes. Who knows, you might actually learn something.

- This one isn't something that I learned during my stay at UCLA, but it's important to note anyway. 103 national championships speaks for itself. If you're not interested in sports, or for some reason against them, then you damn well better change your attitude. It's really a special thing to be part of a university with a combination of elite athletics and elite academics. If you can't be the greatest student or athlete here, then you can at least be one vicariously through our basketball, volleyball, or water polo players. It is quite a waste not to at least be aware of our teams' successes.

I've grown a lot in the past five years, and at times I wish I would've done things differently knowing what I know now. The above is just a tiny glimpse of what I've observed in my time at UCLA. Perhaps I will write about more later - once my thoughts become unscrambled.