Neil Tambe

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

Class Dismissed: Lessons from year one.

It is finally time to elaborate on the first year of university studies. I have been home for a few days now, and have had ample time to pontificate about my year and how I wanted to approach this blog entry. First and foremost, I didn’t want this to be a sappy emo-for-a-dollar waste of space intending to draw sympathy from readers—I wanted to actually reap benefit and analysis in my process of writing and others reading this entry. Also, I wanted to have some structure as this is a rather hefty topic.

So, here is the approach: in no particular order, here are things this year I never expected to happen, that did. Also, please indulge in some thoughts about why they did happen at all.

Like I said, no particular order.

I never thought I would’ve struggled in an English class.

No kidding, this is an arrogant statement. But really, I love writing. I write in my spare time. I write when I should be doing other things. I’m a newspaper reporter for cryin’ out loud. Writing is not something that comes with much friction for me, but boy did I struggle. I suppose I should’ve been working as hard at the beginning of the semester as I was at the end of the semester, but I thought English was no problem. After all, write a few papers, read a few books—I thought I would finally be able to digest British Literature, big mistake—get a grade and we’re dundies.com. [Buzzer sound].

English was definitely a challenge, and I think everyone in my class was better for it. It was wonderful to struggle in a class again, even if it gave my GPA an unnecessary shot in the arm. But from what I can figure this is part of what college is all about, especially the freshman’s experience: rigor. Students are, and should have rough courses in their first year, so long as they’re administered fairly (please discard for a moment that I thought my class was hella hard compared to other first year english courses). I have often been bothered by university culture of recent times, not because of the rigor, but the response to rigor by my peers.

My father, when telling me about his university experiences (India and Canada with dos Master’s degrees on top of his undergraduate degree) seemed to describe a different sort of culture. His mentality of college was a place were people lived and died to study and succeed first and foremost. Now, college seems like a trend, or somewhat of an extension to high school. With exceptions of course, college-bound seniors seem to be a dime a dozen. I see kids wasting away their time, putting more effort to having a high BAC than a high GPA. I want college to be elitist—in the sense that it takes some effort, some money, and some passion to learn—instead of just being some place to go ‘to follow the crowd’, even though I think everyone should go to college if they have the means. Call me an idealist, but I want college to mean more than a degree, but a commitment to a way of life as a intelligent, socially conscious, ethical, contributing citizen of the world, in some fashion or another.

My father’s college years were not for soft, candy-ass kids from the ‘burbs who were going to college to earn their parent’s trust funds or find a spouse (yes, I am very critical of girls who proclaim themselves in search of ‘MRS’ degrees). My father went to college to better himself. My father went to college to improve his life and his future earnings. My father went to college of his own accord, so he could be a college graduate and enrich his life accordingly. My father worked his arse off to get by in life. My father wouldn’t have complained about my English class—mind that English isn’t even his first language. I shouldn’t either. I should buck up about school, and just ‘get er done’. So should everyone else.

I never would’ve thought that I’d be in a fraternity

I don’t think that anyone did.

At the end of the day the greek system is very hit or miss. I should say, there is stale cookies in the jar. And it’s worth it. It’s a good thing that the greek system at U of M is different than at other universities I’ve visted. It’s very much a part of the University, but it’s not simply ‘boozeville’. Yes Dan Leader, it’s not just Boozeville. Haha, I’m only jesting out of brotherly love. (Dan Leader is the mayor Boozeville).

It’s more than Boozeville, meaning that the Greek system is diverse, and many houses stand for more than just a blowout party. It has plenty of problems, believe me. But, that’s for it’s own rant, not in an column of this type. In summary, I never thought I’d be in a fraternity, and I’m definitely glad I did.

I never thought that friends would be so easy to make

I suppose that it wasn’t easy, but I never thought that good friends would be so plentiful and easy to come by. Part of this is my personality, I’m aware. But I must have been lucky as I—as well as many others I’ve met seem to feel this way—have found some unbelievable people to share my time with. Some lived a floor above me. Some I ran into randomly. Some were in classes. Some were even at fraternity parties. The brother I never knew flippin’ lived across the hall from me. There’s something magical about living in college.

As a piece of advice to those younger, leave your door open when you live in the dorms, you never know who might stop by.

It’s quite an incredible thing, starting from scratch and making new friends. I wish adults had the opportunity more often. You learn so much about yourself when you are looking internally to how you are presenting yourself to other people, and analyzing how other people perceive you. There is much self-improvement, ideally, when making new friends. It’s a fresh start to discover and pursue the person you want to be.

How do people become friends so quickly? Is it a common bond of being alone again? Is it simply the friendliness of Michigan students? Definitely, there is something special about a place where many walk around in their underwear. It’s an interesting social dynamic to see people in their natural habitat (walking in their rubber slippers from the shower room, eating together in the cafeteria, going in pajamas to class), it must have some effect positively affecting the genuity of relationships made in college.

I never thought that I’d understand my parents so well

This was definitely an interesting occurrence. After all this time studying and making the grade—spending time improving myself—understanding my parents is not something I would have imagined. There was an overarching theme to this year: “learning to struggle again”, which brought me closer to my parents, even though I obviously saw them less than before.

My parents definitely struggled in their time, and I realized that so much of what they do, and how they command me. How they bitch and complain and demand my best performance is because they know how much of a struggle college, not to mention life in general, is. Parents are doing the best they can to provide for us so that we don’t struggle. What they do is beginning to make sense. Who am I kidding, they have no method to what they do :-P.

On a side note, my hands are staring to look curiously like my father’s. His fingers are shorter and stubbier though.

I never thought that girls would be attractive

I’m not going to lie, coming into my freshman year, I thought the girls would be pretty bad looking. All the rumors of “ Michigan girls are ass-ugly” and “All the hott girls go to MSU”, etc. were beginning to get to me. I seriously thought that there would be one good looking girl out of every 10. That’s definitely not true.

Guys who persist that this is true, that Michigan girls aren’t pretty need to get their eyes checked or change their standards. Girls at Michigan are blonde, brunette, and more, coming from many different parts of the nation and world, and provide many different styles and types to choose from. They aren’t all the cookie cutter broad that seem to riddle the minds of aroused teenagers as the ‘perfect woman’.

All in all, Michigan girls are intelligent, attractive, and seem more down to earth than in other places I’ve visted. And, there are plenty of choice women who are the traditional ‘hott’ girl—who are nonetheless intelligent as well—roaming the campus.

Guys from other Univeristies can shut their pie-hole. Our girls are just as rockin’ as those on your campus.

*I’ll give you that there not all are, but there are plenty.*

I didn’t think that I’d become arrogant, so quickly

To be perfectly frank, I know that college has begun to separate those that are intellectual—or those who desire to be—from those that are not. And, from what I can gather, my peers at the University of Michigan are among individuals searching for a pretentious attitude, and are arrogant enough to know it.

And I love it.

There’s a big difference I’ve noticed in some old friends and others. Some have embraced college to expand their minds and thoughts and push themselves to the limit. Actually I shouldn’t say friends, I’ve observed this phenomenon—I shall call it ‘The Michigan Difference’ even though many other top institutions have this effect—when sitting in random places overhearing the conversations of college-aged strangers. All in all, lots of people in college don’t know shit about anything: the world, or terribly much about their own areas of expertise. They seem to just speak like laymen anyways. I’ve heard people, who are older college students around town, talk like idiots. College is not accessible to all and it should be. But for people whom university studies are accessible, take advantage of them. Sheesh.

I am so amused by being a cocky Michigan student—not that I throw it around, just realizing it in my own head is enough for me—it makes me feel elite. As it should. College educations, as I said before, are investments that I hope make people better citizens in the world. Newsflash, it doesn’t really help much to be a college student/graduate who doesn’t kick it up a notch and do something great. In fact, I don’t think ‘great’ has to be world changing, just something that leaves the world a bit better than before. It’s not cool to succumb to striving only for privileges encouraged by a culture of merit, there’s so much more we can do. Plant a tree. Be nice to neighbors. Read a newspaper. We are blessed to have the college experience to learn more about ourselves and the world; this attitude of brotherhood, empathy, intelligence, awareness, and action must be spread. And most definitely, these ideas don’t spread when the words used to proliferate them sounding like they come from a 6 year old.

These are glimpses of my year.

In finale,

Hail to the Victors.

Coming this week…commentary of oil prices and microeconomics.