Before I launch into my last column ever, I want to again thank the five or six of you who read this. And if you disagreed with every single thing I've written, that's awesome. Disagreement is so much better than indifference.
I'll start with a story: I was driving back from Jefferson City with some friends when one member of our carpool, a transfer student from New Jersey and an East Coaster to the core, complained about how polite people from the Midwest are, how uncomfortable the strangers smiling and saying hello made her feel. The rest of us (two from St. Louis, one from Chicago and one from Salt Lake City) were dumbfounded.
It's amazing how even within the small confines of a compact car we all had such different ideals of what was culturally normal. To those of you who have come to MU from other parts of the world, I hope our Midwest charm has rubbed off on you.
But no matter where you came from, we only have a short amount of time here in this space. So get the most out of it you possibly can.
Immerse yourself in life here. Go to Cooper's Landing at sunset when the weather gets nice again. Attend a sporting event most people wouldn't think of attending. Learn a new language for kicks. Check out the local festivals, especially the True/False Film Fest in February. Attend lectures by people who intrigue you. Attend lectures by people whose principles you disagree with.
Give back to Columbia. This could mean buying local or volunteering for an organization, or any number of other things. You'll feel good, they'll feel good and improving town-gown relations never hurts.
Take any and all opportunities for travel, be it a semester abroad in Europe, a weeklong service trip, a weekend conference, a night at the Lake of the Ozarks or a day amid the rustling plains of the middle of nowhere. Do an Alternative Spring Break trip at least once. Trust me, it will be one of the best things you do during your time here. It changes lives in ways you'd never expect — one of my fellow ASB-ers was so deeply affected by our time there she moved back after graduation. She even started dating our volunteer house coordinator. They now live together. Your experiences might surprise you.
But the most important reminder I want to leave you all with is that you are your own greatest advocate. Part of living immersed in any environment is recognizing the power you have to effect change and improve your experience here and that of your peers. It is truly incredible what can be accomplished when the student population organizes on its behalf. The Missing Minority Campaign in 2008 mobilized to defeat Ward Connerly's proposed affirmative action ban ballot initiative. IncludeMe MU won overwhelming student support last spring on behalf of transgender students and hopefully they will continue fighting tenaciously as their proposed changes are brought before the UM system. Whatever your cause may be — from repealing the nuisance ordinance law to health care reform — do something about it.
It's not enough to plan a demonstration or start a letter-writing campaign — people have to show up to it. The spark for change may be the strong will of a committed few to make things happen requires the willingness of many to take the initiative.
Thanks for reading, have a happy and healthy holiday season and go Tigers.