Alex Byers: The next four years

If you were me, you’d be crying right now.

I was barely into my second day at the third session of Colonial Inauguration 2006 when, lost as I’ve ever been, I stumbled onto the fifth floor of the Marvin Center to take my GWorld photo. As I posed for the picture, I fought back tears – a product of my belief that all things good were coming to a close and the best years of my life were behind me.

I could not have been more wrong.

Three years later, I write this with quite a different perspective. My time at GW has taught me many things, but one lesson stands out above the rest. Your experience in D.C. is under the control of one person: you.

Some of you are overcome with excitement, wondering which internship you should get and what famous professors you should learn from. Others of you are wondering if (insert closer-to-home, cheaper or otherwise more comfortable college) is already accepting transfer applications.

Wherever you are on the spectrum, that’s OK. I can promise you right now that GW and your college experience can be everything you want it to be.

But it’s up to you.

This university will tell you “something happens here.” While the slogan is accurate, it doesn’t come with the stipulation that you’ll automatically be involved in whatever “happens.” That’s why you have to take it upon yourself.

Join a fraternity or sorority, become a part of one of the political groups on campus, get involved with any number of student organizations – it doesn’t matter what you do. Just do it.

Of course, this probably doesn’t sound like rocket science. And it’s not. What will cause trouble for you, though, are the times you don’t get the response you want. This, I’m convinced, is what separates good students from great. Didn’t get a bid to a fraternity? Rush again next semester. Feeling lost as one of hundreds of freshmen in a student org? Work hard and grab a leadership role. No matter what you do here, do it with vigor and you’ll come out just fine.

Even so, there will be bumps in the road. College is a time for paying attention in class, but in four years you will undoubtedly learn more about yourself than you ever could about American history or applied physics. You will try new things, and you will fail. The most important thing is to get up, brush yourself off, and try again. Don’t ever give up.

Three summers ago, I thought the best years of my life had ended when I was handed my high school diploma. Interestingly, then-University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg ended his address to students at CI by telling us that we should always make the next four years of our lives the best four years of our lives. I had no idea what he was talking about then, but I’m proud to say that I somehow followed his advice nonetheless.

I’m confident that current University President Steven Knapp will offer you inspiration this year too. But because you won’t get the same talk from SJT that I did, let me be the one to pass it on: Class of 2013, may the next four years of your lives be the best four years. I can’t wait to see what you can do.

The writer, a senior majoring in political communication, is The Hatchet’s editor in chief.

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