COLUMN: Thoughts from a college graduate

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 | 4:19 p.m. CDT

I’m officially a college graduate.

It’s hard to pinpoint how I feel at the end of such an amazing journey. On one hand, I’m ready for “the real world.” After four years of dirty apartments, stressful weeks and countless all-nighters on campus, I’m OK with calling it quits. But on the other hand, I’m going to miss all of this so incredibly much.

If I could tell my nervous, 18-year-old self what to expect out of college four years ago, it would probably go something like this:

You are about to embark on the best four years of your life thus far. It will be crazy. It will be hard. And it will be fun.

You’ll go out on Tuesdays, and you’ll go out on Sundays. You will go out before busy days that will end up becoming lazy days. You’ll study a lot. You will see independent films and vote in the presidential election. You will get really good at beer pong. You’ll kiss members of the opposite sex. You might dress as Bert and Ernie for Halloween. You'll eat too much freshman year — it's called the Mizzou 22 for a reason, just accept it.

You'll buy a Tiger X pass and go to yoga class once. Senior year, things might change when you realize you'd like to shed the 22. You'll have to take College Algebra and you'll be really excited about getting a B+. You'll discover you love Creative Writing, and you'll craft a story about 20-somethings in love. You will be a 20-something in love.

You'll be a 20-something going through a break-up, and you won't know what to do. Your grade in Psychology will suffer, but that's OK because your friends took you out to drink away the heartache. While total life clarity might not have come out of this coping mechanism, it sure was fun.

You’ll skip class one day because it will be snowing, but instead of sleeping or watching “The Price is Right,” you’ll read “High Fidelity” by Nick Hornby cover-to-cover as you watch the snow fall over Jesse Auditorium. You’ll move to East Campus, and that will be one of the greatest decisions you’ve ever made.

You might search for strange and funny Google images for hours with friends instead of studying. You will find yourself deliriously laughing so hard that you’ll be crying because of one peculiar picture of an animal doing something weird. You’ll miss your family, so you’ll visit home. You’ll realize your parents are your best friends.

You’ll get mad when there aren’t any big tables open at Ellis Library because they’re the most comfortable and the most fun (after all, studying might as well be a social event). You’ll move your friends’ living room furniture to their roof on April Fool’s Day. You will cry during the series finale of “Lost.” There will be ants and possibly a mouse that call your apartment home.

You'll discover you truly love your major — this might not happen until your last semester, but that's OK. You might come to terms with the fact that this major isn't going to make you loads of money. This is also OK.

You’ll watch bad TV. You’ll see live music as much as possible. You will change friends, but you will spend time with those you befriended in the sixth grade. You will become a teacher or a psychologist or an engineer but, probably, a journalist. You’ll miss your friends during the weekdays when you’re all busy. Your friend Craig will host a college prom your senior year, and it will be awesome.

You will eat Gumby’s. You will become a regular at Harpo’s. You might live for Vox Magazine and everyone involved, especially the music department. You will sleep on couches and snuggle with friends. You’ll take thousands of pictures (and put them on Facebook, much to your mother’s dismay). You might get four snow days, and if you do, you’ll spend them all downtown — and in an igloo built by hockey fans with far too much time on their hands and a lot of extension cords.

You’ll cherish the days in spring and fall when Mizzou’s campus looks like Harvard. You’ll take the Add Sheet because you feel guilty not taking it. You’ll wave it at the next person who tries to offer you one. Your roommate will become more than your best friend; she’ll become your family.

You should do all of the above. Make mistakes and take things seriously when you need to. Go to class, but know that it’s OK to skip once in a while. Learn a lot, both in the classroom and at the bars. Tailgate. Don’t wish away your time at Mizzou — it’s unique and fun. When you graduate, you’ll wonder whether you’ll ever find this again.

My next chapter in life is taking me to Northwestern University outside of Chicago, where I’m excited to take on a whole new set of adventures. While I’m sad to see all of my friends go in different directions, whether it be to St. Louis, the Peace Corps or another semester in good old Columbia, I know that we leave this place with love.

So thank you, Mizzou, it’s been a terrific ride. 

Amanda Koellner is a graduate of the magazine sequence at the Missouri School of Journalism. She is a columnist for the Missourian and a music department editor for Vox.

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