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Insight, wit and thanks

"Scars are souvenirs you never lose." -Goo Goo Dolls

I first thought about what I would write in my senior column almost four years ago, when I was a freshman staff writer for The Chronicle. I imagined waxing poetically on my college experience and imparting my wisdom to all the students who still had time left at Duke. It was going to be insightful and witty and everyone was going to compliment me on my brilliance.

But now that I'm here-staring at my computer screen, only a few short weeks away from graduation-I find myself at a loss. How, exactly, can I sum up the past four years in 750 words? Two years ago, as I was beginning my tenure as editorial page editor, I sat in the Chronicle office until 7 a.m. waiting for the editor at the time to finish his senior column. I didn't understand why it took him so long to write a relatively short piece. I understand now. It's not easy to end your college career with one column.

Perhaps my greatest obstacle is that I don't have many nice things to say about Duke. I have problems with the lack of intellectualism on campus, the fact that the social scene revolves entirely around alcohol and the materialism and elitism that characterize a large percentage of the undergraduate population to name a few. I've certainly had more downs than ups in my time here, and I have the scars to prove it.

The thing about scars, though, is that they mean the wound has healed. They mean that the pain has gone away. They are a reminder that even though life hurts sometimes, it won't hurt forever.

Although college can be the best time of a person's life, it is also one of the most difficult. Duke especially offers its students a unique set of challenges (like effortless perfection), and I've watched Duke's campus culture chip away at far too many people's self-esteem and self-awareness. I've seen the harm Duke can do, and that's what makes it so hard to come up with something positive to say.

I am encouraged, however, that President Brodhead is making an effort to address issues of sexism, racism and social life on campus. It is unfortunate that it took an alleged rape to get the University to this point, but I believe these are things that the school needs to talk about if it hopes to remain one of the nation's elite universities.

I think that Duke has great potential, but it must forge its own identity instead of trying to be Stanford or Yale. The University must establish better town-gown relations, improve financial aid and give additional resources to the hard-working people at the Career Center and CAPS.

In the meantime, all I can say to underclassmen is this: find true friends and hold on to them because they will be the best part of your Duke experience. Your friends are going to be the people who hold you when you cry, who calm you when you're angry, who celebrate when you're happy. Your friends are the ones who turn your wounds into scars, who help you recover from the bad times, who make life worth living, who make college college.

So, in closing, I want to thank all of the people who have made my Duke experience worth it. To all of the great people in the Club Sports and Intramural Office, thank you for making three years of work an absolute pleasure.

To Karen, Kelly and Claire, thank you for being great neighbors, providing me with Diet Coke and Cosmic Brownies and taking care of me when I really needed it. To Sarah, thank you for the constant entertainment and for taking the time to get to know me. To Katie, thank you for being a constant friend throughout college, a companion on the long drive home and my connection to M-town. To Emily, thank you for being an amazing roommate for the past two years, for all those times you listened to me complain and for seeing me at my worst and still loving me. And finally, to Claire, thank you for being my partner in crime, for keeping me sane and for giving me hope. I love you guys.

Tracy Reinker is a Trinity senior and former editorial page editor of The Chronicle.

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