For class of ‘10, learn from first-year mistakes

Congratulations, fellow freshmen. We have made it through our first year of college. Looking back on the past year, I realize what I need to do to make the most out of the rest of

Congratulations, fellow freshmen. We have made it through our first year of college. Looking back on the past year, I realize what I need to do to make the most out of the rest of my time at Temple.

The most surprising part of finishing a year in college is that it went by so quickly. Despite all the marathon classes and all-nighters at the TECH Center, my first year vanished faster than a crowd of students after the free pizza has been eaten. I have a sneaking suspicion that time isn’t going to slow down as I get older.

I’ve also learned how important it is to be involved. Sitting in a dorm room all day is more than boring. It detaches a student from the people and groups on campus. Getting out and meeting people is especially important here at Temple. This campus is so diverse in so many different ways. So stepping out and meeting people here is guaranteed to have different results than in the old neighborhood back home.

At the same time, taking on too much at once, as plenty of us have learned, is just as bad as not doing anything. Maintaining a 3.5 grade point average, hitting up the shops of Philly, going to a party every weekend and saving the world is just too much. If we overload, eventually our caffeine-addled bodies will simply say “enough.” And we’ll stop waking up for that 8:40 a.m. (or even 11:40 a.m.) class.

The lesson to be taken from this is that balance is crucial. If we aren’t involved at all, we lose interest in college. If we take on too much, we crash and burn. The good news, fellow class of 2010-ers, is that we have now learned the ropes. In the next three or four years of college, we can take advantage of what this university and city has to offer. We can do this without falling into the traps we fell into in our first year. High on my list is to enroll in a study abroad program.

The way I see it, Temple’s diversity is a window to the entire world. It would be an incomplete experience here if I don’t climb through that window and see what it’s like on the other side.I also believe the class of 2010 should become more acquainted with the city. When you go to a school in North Philly, away from University City and all its student-oriented venues, it can seem like college life ends where Main Campus does.

However, this is a huge city, and it has more to offer than The Gallery and South Street (not that those two places aren’t worth visiting). There’s Chinatown, the theaters, a sizable music scene, independent film houses, Center City, great shops on Walnut Street and the cheap groceries at the Italian Market.

There is probably a lot more out there that I haven’t heard of or found, but that’s why it’s worthwhile to explore Philadelphia.
I also hope to give back to the community
while I am here at Temple. The fact that there is a university here should be a source of pride and not a source of tension for residents who live in the area. It’s true that the social demographics of the university and North Philly are quite different.

But this university is beneficial to the surrounding community. So let’s show Philadelphia why. Community service is great, not just as a resume-builder but as a way to give back. Beyond that, it’s a way to become informed about the issues affecting Philadelphia, whether it’s the mayoral race or housing and urban development issues. Living in Philadelphia has been a great experience for me, so it should be mutually beneficial.

Temple’s diversity, both here and in its study abroad programs, makes it possible to experience the world outside of Southeastern Pennsylvania. In the next three years, the class of 2010 should take advantage of these opportunities.

Stephen Zook can be reached at

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