I wasn’t at Bacchanal this year (#studyabroadproblems), but I celebrated in a sartorial manner—by writing a final paper for one of my Sciences Po classes in a crop top and denim shorts. Sans alcohol and other mind-altering substances, though. On second thought, a drink or two might help my paper writing endeavors in the future.
Study abroad in the spring has its downfalls—I really didn’t want to miss Bacchanal or the Varsity Show, two of my favorite campus traditions. I also didn’t want to miss the re-emergence of limbs and midriffs on Low Steps. Most of all, I didn’t want to say goodbye to my favorite seniors so early. I realize that many seniors will be staying in New York after graduation, and there will always be chances to reunite Carrie Bradshaw style—over mimosas. But judging by the fact that I rarely see my high school friends at NYU, I’m worried about spending my last year at Columbia without so many students who have become role models and mentors in my life.
Stop rolling your eyes. I know the class of 2012 is only one year above me, and most of them still make as many questionable life decisions as I do, but that one year makes a difference. A senior and I are basically the same age—so we can still relate to one another—but we’re also at two different points in life. In the past almost-three years at Columbia, whenever I needed an answer to one of my existential questions, all I needed to do was grab some coffee with one of my favorite seniors.
“Who’s going to grab coffee with me next year?” I’ve started wondering to myself. I never really had role models growing up—I had figured out by middle school that my parents, cheerleading coaches, and baby sitters knew a lot about life because they were older, but in many ways they were still clueless too. They couldn’t act like they didn’t know what they were doing because that would break the illusion of authority for 12-year-olds like me. My cynicism appeared early on in life, apparently.
“I have no idea what I’m going to do when I graduate!” one of my senior friends cried recently. She asked me for fashion advice, and I asked her for life advice.
Perhaps I discovered this cluelessness through the Core—or through listening to some of the most composed and accomplished people on campus lament to me about their Saturday night regrets and Sunday morning walks of shame—but unanswerable questions should still be asked. Lack of perfection doesn’t mean that we don’t have something to teach others.
I’m not ready to be a senior and I’m sure there are other juniors who feel the same way. “Well, personally, I’m ready to be a senior. There’s a certain ease on campus that they carry,” remarked one of my classmates. What if I don’t think I carry that ease yet? Do I just fake it? One of my professors recently said, “Parents don’t know what the fuck they’re doing, either. There’s no ultimate handbook for parenting.” Maybe we could say the same thing about being a senior—you’ve got three years of experience behind you, but you still don’t have a definitive guide for exactly what you should be doing. Even the seniors I know who have secured stable jobs after graduation are still dreaming big about the future. For all the answers they’ve given me, they’re not able to answer their own questions yet.
I’m not sure if any juniors will come to me for advice next semester, since I think I’m pretty ill-suited to doling out bits of practical wisdom. However, I want to listen. Maybe that’s where the air of “ease” that my friend mentioned comes from. Ease comes from knowing you survived three years at this institution, and you can handle it—and thrive, even—for another year. So, if an underclassman comes to me with distress on her face about her CC final, I can be empathetic because I went through the same worries. But I also did just fine, and I can at least try to assure her that she will too—and give her my old study guides.
Anyway, to the class of 2012, I’m not sure to whom I’ll turn when you’re all gone from campus. Maybe I’ll finally call my mom more. But thanks for the coffee dates, shoulders to cry on, arms to hug, laughs to share, boozy brunches, frantic emails and text messages, study guides, late-night study sessions, and memories that should probably be forgotten. The class of 2013 will pass it on next year.
Noel Duan is a Columbia College junior majoring in anthropology and concentrating in art history. She is currently studying abroad in Paris and is the co-founder of Hoot magazine. You Write Like a Girl runs alternate Thursdays