Two weeks ago, I was sitting on the always-bustling Starbucks inside Boston University School of Management, sipping my coffee as I watch endless lines of people struggling to satisfy their daily caffeine intake. With stacks of Harvard Business Review articles in front of me, I listened to all cacophonies, chats, complaints, gossips, and laughter emitted by every single person in the queue – some are ecstatic with their job offers, others frustrated with their midterm exam results, and few were terribly anxious with dates they’re about to have this evening. I couldn’t help myself but to smile and let all the memories I’ve built in this town for the past 3.5 years to come back. Gee, my seven semesters of undergraduate life so far have given me countless emotional rides, be euphoric, triumphant, breakdown, or warm-and-fuzzy. It is not solely the glorious knowledge in Operations Management, Quality Control, and Sustainable Development that I took out of college. There are far more things beyond that – and trust me, a lot of them are no caramel sweet. Those lessons, however, are some of the most important building blocks I will carry as I step out to real life after graduation.
I looked back to the time before I was about to leave Indonesia and head to this little college town in US called Boston. It was July 2010 – I was nothing but an ordinary high school graduate with a huge passion in Biochemistry, instant noodles, and random doodling. On the night before my departure, I got engaged in a conversation with one of my lifelong friend. “Don’t you think it will be interesting to see how college might change us in the next four years?” she said. “Oh, no, I’m pretty sure I will stay the same,” I told her with confidence. Forty months past since I blurted that sentence out and now I know I am partially wrong.
There are a couple of things that still define me as the person everyone used to know. My constant interests on science, interior design, behavioral economics, and color blue are still there. I still find waking up at 6 AM to be challenging, and a cup of coffee remains my best company on rainy days. Changes that occurred throughout my undergrad years goes far beyond that – it is how I perceive the world, human relationships, value of working hard and smart, giving back to the society, and keeping your dreams alive.
Figuratively speaking, college is no different than Brownian motion – you are only a single particle which keeps colliding in random motion with other particles. There’s no time to stop or stay still – you are left with no choice but to keep moving. College is undoubtedly the time when you are exposed to thousands of individuals – you get to work with different set of people for each school project, volunteer work, researches, or simply on your daily life. There are times when you end up working with a set of people who just doesn’t care with what’s going on, and you’re forced to spend sleepless nights in library to get the job done. You will gain and lose some friends over the years – let it be as people come and go all the time. Don’t fret – but don’t surrender either. I’ve been told by many seniors how they missed college so much – life after graduation will be even harsher, not to mention the explosive dynamics that makes going back to college something they are yearning for. As you dash through the week with classes, projects and club activities, keep in mind that you are currently living the best time of your lives!
Get out of your shell and be involved in campus activities. Dress up and head to the annual Moonlight Ball. Spend a day at the library and immerse yourself into boundless world of knowledge. Roll your sleeves up and volunteer at various community services – whip up some food in your local community kitchen, visit the elderly at Retirement Houses, or do marketing campaigns for some good cause. You’ll be amazed how each event magically inspires and transforms you as an individual – it will subtly remind you that every single day of your college years should be spent to its fullest, and understanding multi-cultural richness is one of the best treasures you can keep. Yes, these are not necessarily skills that will help you ace any final exams. However, I truly believe that such experience is what you will ultimately keep as you step into the real world – it is carried within you as a unique individual, and that is how you will eventually make a meaningful impact towards whichever society you end up contributing. Discover your true passion and be honest to your inner self – let every occurrence in your college years guide you through.
Stay curious, stay ignited, and most importantly, stay open-minded – college is the best learning field one can ever be at. Chances are you won’t have as much opportunities meeting global leaders and listening to them speak a couple of meters in front of you that often after college ends. Go out and attend seminars, academic talks, and workshops – this is the moment when you’re given the freedom to ‘shop for some knowledge’ under finest settings. Connect with inspiring seniors, spend a couple of minutes and walk into your professor’s office hours, and get drowned in exciting discussion with friends sharing similar passion. Interact with people coming from countries different from yours – I guarantee you’ll be astounded with how big your global network forms as you are approaching graduation day. Keep in touch with them – these people might just come in handy at some point of your life. And that’s what studying abroad is essentially about.
It’s amazing to recognize how much I have changed and accomplished as an individual throughout my undergraduate years here at Boston University (and my life at Boston itself.) Never have I ever thought I would discover a newfound passion in Supply Chain Management, Quality Control, Sustainable Development, Culinary Arts, Environmental Science, Pathology, and Color Psychology – not to forget keeping my old romance with Biochemistry, Interior Design, and Behavioral Economics alive. I had some incredibly memorable discussions with the faculty here at the School of Management, and a couple of them eventually steers me towards where I’m heading right now. I am glad to have tried volunteering for various causes – let it be baking for American Cancer Society, packing Christmas gifts for unfortunate kids around Boston, or working on marketing campaign for a neighborhood Thai restaurant. My multicultural experience has also been nothing but wonderful – learning how to brew Makgeolli (Korean wheat and rice wine) right from the Koreans, Sushi-making party with the Japanese, nerdy discussion about emerging Asian Economy with the Chinese, interpreting Dante Alighieri’s Inferno with the Italians, or learning Russian culture inside-out from a native. I haven’t got the chance to travel around the world, but my 3.5 years in Boston University has given me a great snapshot of what our globe is stupendously composed of.
As I’m scheduled for a senior yearbook photo shoot sometime November, there are a lot of things as a senior that I wished I could have done throughout my undergraduate study. Yet, this might serve as a mild reminder to all incoming freshmen that you should not waste your time here sticking to your old self. Life does not look back, and challenge does not wait for you. Grab all the positive opportunities presented in front of your eyes – seize the moment and embrace the future. Second chances are nothing but unpredictable and should not be expected. Be the good change, and change for good. Go for what your heart seeks – both career and personal relationship-wise. Be comfortable in your own skin. Be vulnerable to new ideas. Take risks and don’t be afraid to learn from downfalls. Walk out of your Commencement Ceremony with a huge smile and whisper to yourself, “Oh boy. What an amazing ride my undergrad years have been, and I’m ready for what life has in store.”
I recall my assurance to an old friend that I will remain stagnant, and now I regretted saying such. I am glad for who I am today, and I’m ready to step towards an even dynamically fiercer world after graduation with all global perspective and invaluable set of skills I have on hand. It’s all thanks to me given the chance to study abroad, and forever I will proudly say that these years infinitely become the best moments in my entire life – so far.
And I simply wish to be back.
Photo Credit: Pictures taken by author.