As a child, I was shown the movie “Animal House” at way too early of an age. But beyond all of the offensive language, casual nudity and complete disregard for authority, that movie had a bigger impact on me: it created an image of my mind of what college was supposed to be like. The same goes for similar types of movies that came out during my formative years: “American Pie 2,” “Van Wilder” and “Accepted,” among others. After all, the characters and story ideas had to come from somewhere, right?
Well, after having been in school for three years now, I can tell you that college is not like they showed in the movies (not Notre Dame, anyway). At first, I was a little disappointed. Those guys in the movies were having the time of their lives; hanging out with their best friends, partying and not worrying about anything. That is what college was supposed to be. But now, I realize that college is (fortunately) so much more than that.
College will expose you to people and cultures that you never would have been exposed to otherwise. As a high school student, it is hard to realize just how big of a world there is outside your little bubble that you live in, particularly if you’ve only lived in one town in your entire life (like me). People act a certain way, talk a certain way and root for certain teams, and no one questions it. However, even at Notre Dame, a notoriously homogenous school with a relatively small international population, you come in contact with people that possess a huge variety of perspectives on life. I have met people that have been going out to bars since they were 18 (Deep South), people who think the Midwest moves way too slow (East Coast), people who think the Midwest moves way too fast (Great Plains), people who wear coats when it is 60 degrees (Southern California) and people who think its cool to say “hella” (Northern California). To these people, these experiences and feeling are completely normal, but to me they were all ridiculous when I first heard them. A funny thing happens, though, as you get older: you start to pick up on other’s experiences and beliefs and assimilate them into your own. I may not ever want to move out of the Midwest, but I have at least gained perspective on life and have learned a lot about myself in the process.
College will make you realize just how unsure you are about what you want to do with your life. I am a rare case, in that I knew exactly what I wanted to major in straight out of high school. Four years ago, I applied to college with the intention of being a Civil Engineering major, and I have never wavered since then. Beyond that, I knew exactly what I wanted to do out of school: I was going to be a project engineer for a construction company after I graduated. But after being exposed to a number of different opportunities and having gone through a lot of self-evaluation, I now realize that maybe I’m not quite as sure about my life as I thought I was. I’ve been inspired by people that I have met doing a year of service or those that are going into teaching and I have been exposed to everything from business to engineering to journalism. Being at college makes you realize that there is a vast, almost unfathomable, number of directions that your life can go.
Each of the first two lessons brought me to my final realization: the people you meet are everything. This is a lesson that took me a while to learn, but made my life so much better once I finally did. It is very easy to get wrapped up in schoolwork and other responsibilities all the time and, to be sure, those things are very important. But, at the end of the day, all we really have are our friends and family. I have loved my three years of college, but not because the football team has been good (they haven’t) or because I have enjoyed all of my classes (I haven’t). I’m going to look back at Notre Dame and remember football Saturdays, staying up way too late talking in the hallway with my dorm mates, taking 10 minutes to give everyone the sign of peace at mass on Sundays and the random, spontaneous road trips I have taken. And, more importantly, I am going to remember the people I did all of those things with. Whether you believe it or not, there are over 8,000 life stories to be heard on campus, and each is unique and interesting in their own way. The more you hear, the better off you are you’ll be. And that really is so college.
Andy Ziccarelli is a senior majoring in civil engineering. He welcomes your adulation and veiled threats at email@example.com
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.