I’ve had a recurring conversation with my dad for the last four years, usually right around the time I get my grades back at the end of the semester. It goes something like this:
“Brian, you need to get better grades than this.”
“But dad, the most important things I’m learning here aren’t in the classroom.”
“But, uh, B stands for best in class here. And C stands for -”
Now that I got into graduate school, though, not even my dad can argue with me. As I prepare to leave GW in a few weeks and move on to the real world – also known as my parents’ house – I know that the lessons that will stay with me the longest are the ones I learned from living here in Foggy Bottom and working at The Hatchet.
The first thing I learned as a freshman is how much I didn’t learn at CI. The J Street they show you – you know, with the great food and smiling faces – is a culinary illusion. And you don’t actually have to do all the reading for your classes. But the laser light show was fantastic, and I hope they show it again at Commencement.
I learned that you can sneak into HOVA by signing up for the Watergate LLC during housing selection then dropping it without losing your room.
I got an internship on the Hill later that year and learned that congressional politics can be petty and disillusioning, but that there are members and staffers who really care about people, and I was lucky to work in the right office. I became good at opening and sending lots of mail. And I learned that the cafeteria in the Canon building has some of the best chicken fingers in D.C.
I learned to be vigilant, whatever that means, because Bush told me to do so. And I learned to keep my own emergency food and water stash in case of a terrorist attack, because Tom Ridge convinced my mom to tell me to do so.
I learned that you can take Amtrak to New York for Yankees playoff games and be back the next day in time for class. And that it’s worth every penny.
I learned that some Red Sox fans can be pretty cool people. And my friends from home still don’t believe me.
I learned that the average GW student has between zero and four drinks on a weekend night because GW’s posters told me so. Then I learned that wasn’t true.
I learned that the School Without Walls does in fact have walls.
I learned that in D.C., they actually arrest you for drinking underage. And that the $40 fake ID I bought in Manhattan was not very convincing.
I’m still trying to figure out why GW made me take GCRs, why one of our mascots is an inflatable hippopotamus and what all those beans and sauces are at D.J.’s.
My roommate from freshman year, Doug, showed me that fraternities were not really about being hazed and paying for friends. And I would’ve regretted not joining one, had I not found a fraternity of my own in The Hatchet.
But the week before classes began my freshman year, I came here, to this two-story townhouse at 2140 G St. We’ve put out nearly 250 issues of the newspaper since then, and in that time I’ve ate and even slept here, did my homework here, made friends and met my girlfriend here. I wrote and edited a little, too.
Here, I learned that there are no jobs in sports writing, and that the ones there are pay less than GW pays its adjuncts. And I learned that I’d be crazy if I tried to do anything else.
Kate Stepan taught me about Cappuccino’s pizza at four in the morning. When she emerges from the witness protection program I will have a slice with her.
Alex Kingsbury taught me about Maine. And that you don’t throw beer bottles in the woods there.
E.A. Brown taught me about being a basketball fan. She set the standard for devotion to GW.
Will Dempster and Kyle Spector gave me the course on Israeli politics I never took. Spector will have big shoes to fill, but that’s only because Dempster has freakishly enormous feet.
Alan Siegel gave me the course on random pop culture references I never took. Siegel is the only writer I’ve ever met who literally gets better with each story. He also taught me that Gary Smith is a God, and he should be worshipped accordingly.
Jeff Baum taught me that you can know about crimes and fires before they even happen just by listening to a scanner. And to cease. And desist.
Shea (you’re welcome) and Sherraden showed me not all photographers are cranky by nature. Stoneman and Sarah showed me this about page designers as well.
Ryan Holeywell taught me that there are in fact Jews from Texas. He was one of many people who gave me the geography class I never took: Caitlin from Indy, Gabe from Poland, Sacha from Cleveland, Maura from Pittsburgh, etc. This is a big deal when you grow up on an island where people look to the west and see Queens, then Manhattan, then the Hudson River, then California.
Barnett, like me, will learn a lot next year. He should learn to take time for himself more than anything.
Jake Sherman showed me I wasn’t as cocky as I thought I was when I was a freshman. He may yet back up his swagger though.
Josh Riezman taught me about cultural diffusion. After living and working with him, now I say ‘dude,’ and he wears fancy east coast shirts that would get him beat up back in Cali.
Lastly, I’ll say this: from Lauren, and from mom, dad, Doreen and Tommy, I learned that nothing would be possible without the love and support of the people closest to me.
That’s about it, dad. I hope it was worth the two tons of gold bullion Trachtenberg charged you for tuition.
-Brian Costa was editor in chief of The Hatchet in 2004-05. He began writing for the paper in August 2001.