After four years here, this is what I have to say: "Thanks, Duke. It's been fun, but I'd really like to go now." While many of my classmates will wax nostalgic in these, our last few weeks in college ("Can you believe this is the last time we'll be at Shooter's as Duke students?" "Aren't you going to miss the Plaza/BC Walkway in the springtime?"), I cannot help but ask myself, "What am I doing still going to Shooter's anyway?" and, "Why the heck did they build this thing again, and is that a glow-in-the-dark statue of Buddha? How very enlightened.."
Now, it's not that I'm complaining or really have anything to complain about; Duke has been an amazingly great place, and I appreciate and cherish everything about it-the friends I've made, the things I've learned, the opportunities I've had. But, there also comes a time to realize that there is so much more out there.
So, let me tell you, seniors and soon-to-be seniors, don't feel guilty if you're not that sad about leaving this place. And don't let your friends make you think you should be sad about it either. You're not alone.
Really, the truth is, I'm over it. I'm over the all-nighters, the tests, the papers, the library, the endless list of readings and the constant feeling that I could and should be doing something other than watching LOST or 30 Rock right now.
I'm over the same five super-crowded bars that charge me five bucks to get in and make me wait 30 minutes to get a drink (probably not a good sign since I'm headed to New York, but its countless redeeming qualities make this tolerable). I'm over seeing people I know at every corner; not nearly enough is said about the joys of anonymity. And I'm over believing that college is going to be the best time of my life. It's not.
Now, before you write me off as driver of the bitter bus pulling into cynicism station, just understand that this has very little to do with Duke itself. This place has offered me opportunities I could never have imagined having four years ago, life-changing experiences I will remember for the rest of my life. And I will admit that I have on occasion admired the weather, the architecture and reminded myself how blessed I am to be here. It's really hard not to, and it's difficult for me to deny that there are more good things about this University than there are bad ones.
Now, of course, this is not to say that Duke doesn't have its flaws. Trying to fix, or even gauge, something as amorphous, elusive and deep-seated as "campus culture" would be one, and believing that people will earnestly participate in a dialogue if they are never asked is another. Let's face it; the culture the Campus Culture Initiative committee described in its report extends far beyond Duke, and to believe that this "culture" can change when the forces that drive it have been at work in most of our lives for almost 18 years before we even set foot on this campus is ambitious but perhaps na've. The truth is that any culture change is not an overnight process; it will take generations to affect any predominant belief system. And no policy aimed at the here and now can change that. No kegs on campus, no selective living groups, raising admissions standards for athletes-these are all temporary "solutions" that neglect to answer why we feel so cheated by the world.
But perhaps it's not about the policies, and it's really all about the honest discussion and dialogue that comes now, after the diagnosis of these problems. If it is, I can only hope that we take a page from the book of "Nancy Grace is a Moron," and talk without arguing, speak without yelling and listen to, not merely hear, what other people have to say.
While it's true that I have learned so much during my four years here-as much from my professors and courses as from my friends and acquaintances on campus-the learning doesn't end here, just as it did not begin here. And as much as we'd love to change the world one college campus at a time, the reality is that we all have too much to experience outside of Durham, outside of Duke, and too much to share to dwell on what we will miss.
So, for me, I know that it's about time I get out of here. But of course, I would be remiss if I didn't thank this University. It's been a blast, but definitely one to stay in the past.
Sarah Kwak is a Trinity senior. She is the current co-editor of Towerview magazine and the former managing editor of The Chronicle.
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