Entering the real world has become a dreadful thought. Yet rising from the folding chair in the center of Gampel, surrounded by 10,167 faces, signifies the march to independence. Graduating is supposed to be exciting, a celebration of accomplishments and an inspiration for those yet to achieve a degree, but journalism is damned and anthropology is dusty.
These categories have become ingrained into my identity like somehow I belong to one spot or in between, but what I have learned is less about the need to memorize, theorize and quantify, and more about the need for action. Staying in one damned farm town for seven semesters after living in a literal Farming-ton for 18 years has born a hatred for stagnancy in my heart. I have become a procrastinator, a layabout and a general disgrace to my own sense of ambition. Sure, I traveled to 9 countries since leaving high school and became an associate editor at a free-spirited student newspaper. But what now? I will be unemployed, shackled with debt and regressed to both my basement bedroom in my hometown and a deepened dependence on my mother. Luckily, there have been several influences in my life that will point me in the right direction as I hack through the jungle of the real world.
The first is my beautiful mother, who always taught me to work hard, be independent and do right by yourself. My family will always inspire me to be better. My dad taught me that it is never too late to count your blessings and become your best self. While my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all taught me there is always time for family and love on your days off, if you do it right. So I quickly learned the value of money and the necessity of respect, working four separate jobs throughout high school. And in my sophomore year here, I applied to UC Cafes and was hired (and again my senior year) and met people with the same work ethic and appreciation for humor that I have. Many days I skipped classes to sleep after working until 12:30 a.m., or because I woke up at 6:00 a.m. to open Bookworms. And when I started writing for the The Daily Campus, then designing layout, copy editing and being associate life editor until 2 a.m. On production nights I had even more reason to skip classes to sleep or catch up on work. Nonetheless I made it through school as independent as possible, with plenty of time to show my baby cousins around campus and spend the holidays with the people who raised me, and I plan to devote that same strong work ethic, and healthy work balance, in my career.
The Daily Campus helped me find the second guiding influence of my life: journalism. When I was brought to the DC by an unlikely friend on a Sunday evening, I met my family for the next three years. Though I pushed myself into the crew, I began to feel like the little building we spend endless hours in was my true home. On nights when my computer crashed and I learned the holy ritual that is “command+S” and another where the reality of our monstrously unqualified and offensive president crashed down around me, the people who surrounded me taught me everything that journalism requires: dedication, morals, curiosity and an outstanding sense of humor.
Third comes anthropology. I applied to UConn as an anthro major after taking a broad course on the subject in high school with my best friend. I found there was a way to learn more about others, teach more and in turn learn about yourself. The aspects of language, life, subsistence and history that make up the human race is incredible dense and inspiring. I could spend forever immersed in an armchair and an ethnography but I am restless and passionate so I’m glad journalism became my means to get out into the world and advocate for others do the same.
The fourth influence is technology. I have come to rely heavily on it to report, record, preserve and communicate with ease for both ethnographic studies and journalistic investigation. And although it’s brought me success and a strong advantage, I’ve come to realize it’s terrifying consequences. The world has become hesitant, while also being completely impatient. Before we act, we Google. Before we go out, we check the weather. Before we step out to protest or raise our hand in class, we post on Facebook and Twitter. Before we go out and enjoy a night with friends or family or strangers, we take photos. Before we eat the fresh, hot meal in front of us we take a Snapchat. I will not deny that I do the same, to log my life like someone who needs validation of the followers I’ve amassed and to keep track of everything I’ve done because I can’t be bothered to keep a journal anymore. I want to move beyond this and encourage a life of adventure, action and self-discovery. There are books to read, places to see, lives to hear through storytelling and problems to solve with the critical skills four years have taught me to embrace.
The fifth is my friends. Cliche, I know, and I’ve been trying to move away from the traditional farewell but it has to be said. Many people I have met here at UConn I will never meet again and I won’t even see their wedding pictures on Facebook but they have shaped me. I have learned to be optimistic and welcoming. Every “good morning” on Fairfield Way and soft smile when you make eye contact buying coffee in Homer Babbidge at 10 p.m. has shown me it is valiant to be kind. The random vagabonds who took the chance of friendship with me abroad became some of my biggest fans and my favorite adventurers to idolize. My professors have shown my distracting and poor time-management habits endless opportunities to redeem my grades and myself. My closest friends have lifted me from the depths of depression and the hell of hangovers, and I will always remember their empathy. I know now to give when I am privileged to have something others don’t and to be gracious of miracles when they appear.
So what I have learned from college is not that I needed this education or that I needed to be examined and rated like ground beef, but that there are not enough people in this world who appreciate the lessons of life and the words the world whispers to us.
As a society we like to interact strictly with those we agree with, especially on social media and we show solidarity through likes and shares. But if I can take four years at UConn, a place I never intended to end up and find the equation for a healthy approach to life, you can do the same. You can build a strong work ethic, develop a devotion to knowledge and curiosity, embrace the lives of others, remember there is life beyond the screen and care deeply about the world and its inhabitants, even if it’s just to ensure they care about you too.
Standing still has never gotten anyone anywhere. Every journey begins with one step and this one started the day I stood up in the gym at Farmington High School and ends with the day I stand up in Gampel. I can say I have never been more afraid, but I have also never been more ready.
Francesca Colturi is associate life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.