Column: I don’t want to grow up, I want to be a U of I kid

By Joseph Lamberson

It’s the most dreaded question any senior in college can hear. Shrill, exciting, interested and strangely accusatory all at the same time, it haunts your every waking moment. You hear it from your parents, your classmates, your professors and strangers on the street. At just six words, it can feel like the toughest question you’ve ever faced.

“What are you doing next year?”

For most college seniors, the answer is a matter of jobs and careers, work and the world as they pursue their field of study out into the job market. For me, it’s a detailed explanation of exactly what you do with a degree in speech communications. I know that there are options out there for good, stable jobs in communications, but for some reason they don’t draw the appreciation or the pay that my friends in engineering can look forward to. Because of this, I’ve decided to change my answer. I’m staying in school.

As a non-graduating senior, or “super senior,” I have the opportunity to turn my minor, political science, into a second major and further diversify my education. Beyond that, I get to remain the college kid that I am for another year. I’ll take midday naps and student loans over a full-time job and bills to pay any day.

To me, college is not just about endless parties and useless courses (and I’m sorry to any professors who read this, but even you have to admit that a lot of what we learn is useless information), , it is about the personal growth that we experience as we move from semester to semester. Since my days as a wide-eyed, World of Warcraft-playing freshman, I’ve managed to grow up and learn about responsibility in an environment that is both empowering and controlled, and has afforded me the best well-rounded education possible, even if it came outside the classroom.

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    I have had some amazing instructors and some terrible ones, but I have found that my peers and coworkers have given me the best sense of self that I could have received, and I intend to pass the lessons on as I remain in Champaign-Urbana.

    No, I won’t be Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Illini next year. Yes, I will still be taking the occasional 100-level class to shore up my second major with the least amount of work possible. But that is what the college experience is all about. It’s about finding yourself in the strangest ways and the strangest places, and seeing what you’re made of as you see what the experience can make of you.

    By sticking around for a fifth year of study, I am avoiding a volatile job market for a little while longer and giving myself a chance to breathe and reflect. Maybe I’ll pursue my passions in all of my free time as I finish up. Maybe I’ll go out more. Maybe I’ll finally take the time to go to class. Maybe not.

    In the end, I am simply allowing myself more time to be young and frivolous while I am still young and frivolous.

    I’m expanding my mind and solidifying my beliefs before I am forced to go out and sell out, just to earn a paycheck. Eventually, I am going to have to graduate. After that, I will be forced to face a world of jobs and bills, and I will hopefully (at least eventually) love it. And if not, there’s always grad school.