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Saturday, March 28, 2015

If you could relive your college experience, would you do it?

Recently, I took the online mandatory graduation survey that GW requires graduating seniors to take before we can obtain tickets for Commencement. Towards the very end of the extensive questionnaire, the survey asked an admittedly thought-provoking question: if you could relive your college experience all over again, would you do so? The choices offered for respondents were: 'definitely would,' 'probably would,' 'probably wouldn't,' and 'definitely wouldn't.'

At first glance, the question was one I thought I could answer with relative ease. I would naturally want to relive an experience that enriched me in terms of my knowledge, relationships, professional experience, and maturity. In the process, I learned a lot about life, my chosen course of study, and how to manage time effectively, among other things. Throughout it all, I enjoyed incredibly fun and formative experiences with friends, ranging from arranged social gatherings to spontaneous get togethers to serious support when needed.

Upon further introspection, before I could approach to click "definitely would," I paused for a moment of reflection. Would I actually relive my entire college experience if I could do it all over again? On the one hand, this question is meaningless because you obviously can't rewind time. On the other hand, the question allows for some useful self-reflection; the pondering over this question proves to be a meaningful thought experiment.

The most glaring examples of experiences I wish I could change, and certainly not relive exactly as they occurred, are those where I fell short of my standards of character, ethics, and work ethic. It is moments like these -- times when I may have emotionally hurt someone else (even if, often, unintentionally), when I felt I didn't do enough to help those in need in my community, not studied enough for certain courses or not devoted enough time to improving my own physical health early in college -- that cause me the greatest regret. The good times, the learning, and the extracurricular pursuits that defined my largely successful college career were not without their bumps, mistakes, and pitfalls.

Admittedly, I wish I lost weight at the outset of my college career instead of in the summer before my senior year (for my own health, most importantly), I wish I worked harder in classes and performed better academically in the first half of college when I was too distracted by a variety of factors, I wish I could have set aside my homesickness very early in freshman year rather than the late point in my first semester when I chose to do so, I wish I could have been humbler, at times, in my approach to others in my first year, and I wish I engaged in far more community service opportunities in the District in my first two years at GW.

Recounting these experiences in my mind made me question whether I would truly do it all over again. With all the good of incredible tasks pursued and lasting friendships forged, there was all the bad: time wasted, opportunities squashed, and priorities misplaced. I ultimately though clicked that I "definitely would" relive my entire college experience -- even these moments, a realization that might confound some readers.

I would relive it all because even those regrettable times proved useful in their own way. Having lived through them made me a better person. Nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes, and college is a prime opportunity to learn to climb back from these pratfalls and to mature and grow in time. These experiences compelled me, in the second half of college and hopefully beyond, to take better care of myself physically and even emotionally as I became more open with friends, to prioritize academics so I could learn more and perform stronger in classes as I did in the last two years, and to become more engaged in service in DC. Individuals who subscribe to the "everything happens for a reason" maxim -- a category that includes yours truly -- would find solace in this explanation.

On the whole, beyond the valuable lessons learned from my errors and sins early in my college career, I also obviously had amazingly fun-filled memories that I would relive at a moment's nice. After all, what is coming next -- the rigor that is law school -- is so daunting that it makes me seriously wish I could instead just relive college instead, even though I look forward to what lies ahead of me.

However, on that note, were it not for my four-year experience at GW, I would not be going to law school in Philadelphia in the fall. Were it not for GW, I would not have all these great and loving friendships I have formed in the Sigma Nu fraternity and in College Democrats and in my residence halls and classes, including, very recently, my awesome relationship with my girlfriend, Erin. Were it not for college, I would not have learned so much that I now know about the social safety net, anti-poverty programs, public speaking, campaigns and elections, philosophy, history physics, ethics, and political science from stellar professors like Edward Berkowitz, Robert Stoker, Ingrid Creppell, Christine Clapp, Phyllis Ryder, and John Sides, among others.

Were it not for GW, I would not have had the amazing experiences I had being able to make change happen, with the help of so many partners, in the GW Student Association Senate, on issues ranging from sexual assault policy to improving online resources to helping our student body president with raising support for his peer support program proposal. Finally, were it not for college, I would not have formed incredible connections and learned useful lessons of leadership that I obtained from my tenure as GW college Democrats president, a stint in which I am proud to say we worked hard to engage students in contemporary political discussion through several student and professor debates, community service events, two campaign trips, and speakers that included the Vice President of the United States.

So, in the end, of course, I definitely would relive my college experience. The good and the bad both were teachable moments. These experiences made me a better person, on a variety of levels, including ethically and in self-discipline. The last four years were powerfully formative in ways that I think will define and guide my moral compass and professional work for some time to come.