It seems in many ways to me, that asking a senior to write a retrospective on the eve of graduation is remarkably cruel. This is a job that would have much better suited one of my many former selves. It should be a task for those not yet ingrained in the emotions of this change, as arbitrary of a change as it may be for some. I find myself now looking back, thinking on the actions and events to include and which must now be left out in such a small space. It is as if I must now not only move on from this undergraduate experience, but also decide the work of aging for it, and pick what must be forgotten. This is the root of the cruelty, and yet, here I write all the same. So with this in mind, I write the following self-inflated, egotistic, and solipsistic analysis of the previous four years.
Clearly the natural starting place should be back in 2012. I was a bushy-tailed freshman straight from a town of 600 people, and held an enthusiasm not only to learn from professors, but also to expand my understanding of the world through my peers. As surprising as it may be, rural upstate New York is not the most diverse location in the world. I am certain that the long lost soul of freshman year Ben would have produced a wonderfully optimistic piece on the process of adapting to college were he given the chance. Though I hold no memories, Facebook photos tell a clear story of a very confused boy with a big red robe. Between the bubble pipe, the makeshift beer pong, and the ample posts to the 2016 group page, freshman year showed a great deal of room for improvement.
On the plus side, from freshman year was born the sophomore slump. Wait, that was wrong. That was very wrong. If freshman year demonstrates room for growth, sophomore year was certainly the proverbial fire with which much of my spirit was cast. I felt after the numerous shenanigans, late night jam sessions, and absolute madness accompanied with being on a team with Elias Kim (going to Harvard Law) I participated in throughout the previous year that being a student fellow, and participating in house team, would be a joyful employment.
What I soon realized was how diverse the problems of my peers could be, and how many of my own I needed to address. College is certainly not meant to be a stress free environment, but the troubles rooted throughout this campus were revealed to be beyond the scope of any reasonable expectation. I met some of the most caring and magnanimous people I have ever known on the Cushing house team. Their commitment to one another, and to the student body in general was well above the job description.
The entirety of sophomore year was a blur, and before I knew it my junior year had begun. The summer had done me good, and I entered with a rejuvenated spirit for trouble making. Between my suitemates, the soccer team, and those remaining population of friends not abroad, I was remarkably ready to do as many whimsical and unproductive activities as possible. Though, Vassar never truly lets go of its stressors, I convinced myself of the importance of building “my network”. Though it was clearly an excuse, it seemed that the safest bet for my future was to firmly build friendships by going out regularly, and enjoying a good drink with those caring people around me. After all, what is a GPA in comparison to loving friends?
After having discovered this excuse for myself, I found myself going abroad as well. I landed in Stockholm, Sweden, and my academic priorities quickly melded with my need to go out and explore the world. The combination was a great success. After finding myself dipping into open bars that were build around LinkedIn meet and greets, and start up parties combined with live music shows, I had ample fodder to support my procrastinating tendencies. As my adventures increased in regularity my academics improved as well. While my statistical background may have taught me that an individual observation, myself, cannot be a convincing case, I stand by the conclusion. A focus on the relationships here at Vassar is the most effective and productive use of one’s time.
Taking this as my hypothesis, senior year became an experimental ground to both improve and build on. Between skinny-dipping in sunset lake, climbing on roofs, drinking on my porch with my housemates at 2pm, and inviting Cappy to our winter-shindig, I can attest that few things feel as rewarding as embracing relationships. In the end, and with a complete avoidance of talking about my actual academic experience, I have found myself fully prepared to move forward with my academic career as a result of Vassar College. I am now moving on to pursue a PhD in Public Policy, and am remarkably thankful for the opportunities which Vassar has supplied me.