Undergrads need to apply the tools a U of C education supplies them

By Joel Lanceta

I sat in a chair, catatonic, my stuff haphazardly stuffed into boxes around me in my living room for storage, as the end of another academic year finally approached. I waited, pleading with time to be on my side for once, daring the sun to pull itself farther from the horizon and propel the space-time continuum to be faster. Then my absolution came—my alarm clock finally rang: 8 a.m. I sprang up, dashed outside to the hallway, climbed three flights of stairs, and got to her door.

Amazingly, my friend, Alex—we’ll call her that—was up. She had a history of being an early riser, and today she needed all the preparation she could get with a panoply of relatives arriving for her Convocation that morning. She hugged me, and amusingly commented that her family was lost getting to the Quads, like she predicted. Then she asked why I had to bid her farewell early that morning—when I was moving out of the dorm and she was graduating—instead of last night. I told her the truth, I didn’t know how to say good-bye.

Many months later, it’s now my turn to graduate. I don’t feel sentimental; instead I’m relieved and ready, like many of us graduating fourth-years, to journey further into life with new people, new places, and new adventures outside of the Reynolds Club. But I still don’t know how to say good-bye, to Alex before, and now to this part of my life. As I contemplate, I remember an essay Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote about the nuances of good-bye in different languages. Auf wiedersehens, au revoirs—carry connotations of “till we meet again,” meaning “this separation is not permanent;” adios (“To God”) and even good-bye (“God be with you”) implies that “our love and God’s love will always be there.” Lindbergh was most satisfied though with the terse farewell of the Japanese—sayonara: “Since it must be so that we part.”

Am I saying good-bye, till we meet again, or sayonara to this University? I used to think that I questioned this because I still have much to accomplish at the College. And yet, I don’t have many regrets ending this year, so this feeling of unfinished business is not for me, but for the underclassmen and my friends I’m leaving behind at this school.

However I leave this school, I want to impart one thing to the future generations of the U of C: do something.There are so many ideas, so many philosophies, so many unique perceptions and thoughts at this place it would blow your mind. Yet what Chicago has been accused of, what we’ve complained of, is this image of an ivory tower, a world so deeply drawn into academia that it’s oblivious to practicality. We came to this school with the capability to use our minds and faculties to change the world around us. What the University does best is show us that the world can be interpreted and improved upon in so many ways. The next step, which I challenge all of you to take, is to apply those ideas. If you think campus life doesn’t have enough arts, create a project yourself. If you’re motivated by an issue, whatever your ideology is, reach out with other people to get that issue out to the public. If you or your friends don’t have an RSO for your own interests, nothing prevents you from forming your own. And as always, there will be forums like the Maroon or other student periodicals for you to express your beliefs.

I depart for graduate school at Boston University with the realization that things change, and I might not have the chance to recapture the spirit of first dates at the Med, drinking whiskey on my friends’ porches, or endless nights in the Reg listening to Miles Davis. But as long as students here continue fabricating countless ways to change the word and applying them, I don’t think I have much to lament about leaving Chicago. Though I’m still thinking of what world best describes my parting, I turn to the equivalent of good-bye in Filipino to end this article: sige—derived from the Spanish and Latin word segue—“and now I must proceed onwards.”