It’s high time I weigh-in on my four years pursuing a B.A. in International Relations at the State University of New York at Geneseo.
I am exceedingly glad I went to a state school. With my SAT grades and high school transcript, private schools were not out of the question. I could’ve successfully applied to a school like NYU, but I would’ve graduated in a state of serious debt. Just this year, student loan debt has exceeded credit card debt for young Americans, and given the 8%+ unemployment rate, having a shit-ton of debt when graduating with only a Bachelor’s degree is not a great position to find oneself in. This is doubly true for those that choose to study a social science instead of a natural science, where a PhD track often leads to far more lucrative careers.
I do wish, however, that Geneseo had more culture in the surrounding environment. That was always a drag – if I wanted Ethiopian food, for example, I’d have to drive over an hour round-trip to get to Rochester. The campus, although aesthetically beautiful, was an isolated and protected bubble, a BioDome of Boring.
This was somewhat made up for by extracurriculars – intramural sports, pickup games, the radio station, the newspaper, and various clubs helped fill up my free time to a point where I felt busy but not overwhelmed.
The actual curriculum was fine and I found most of my classes interesting, but some were a joke. The only classes I felt to be truly rewarding were those with a focus on law. Two in particular, The Judicial Process and International Law & Organization, required a great deal of in-depth analysis and research. These two classes are a primary reason as to why I’ve come to believe that a J.D. might be somewhere in my future after a good amount of time outside of the academic world. I’m glad of my major, though. Studying International Relations at a time like this makes all the sense in the world, and it’s given me a solid background to understand global events which, as cliche as it is, do effect us all in a very profound and real sense, even if we don’t always realize it. I think there are 3 sorts of academics in the world – those who ask “Who Are We?,” those who ask “Where Are We?,” and those that ask “What Have We Done?” I’m glad to be the latter sort of person.
My friends, however, made the four-year experience truly worthwhile. I can’t decide if this can be attributed to Geneseo in particular, however. Maybe I found excellent people to spend time with there by chance, or maybe Geneseo draws the type of people that I am excited and glad to be around.
All-in-all, Geneseo was never my perfect school – but unless I start up an accredited university from scratch, I don’t think my perfect school exists. Geneseo gave me a well-rounded background which I think – I hope – will let me be successful in the pursuits I find interesting and rewarding during my post-grad life. I think it would’ve been easy to skate by, put in little effort, and graduate with a degree. The areas where I learned most are the areas I worked hardest voluntarily, but those areas rarely felt like work. That’s the most significant bit of wisdom I’ve taken from my time at Geneseo – find work that’s interesting and rewarding, and it won’t be work in the miserable Dilbert sense at all.
Another week at home and it’s off to Fort Collins, Colorado to work as a Summer Organizer with Obama for America. We’re living in a space and time where two types of responses are found most often – “things are too broken, fuck it,” and “things are screwy but it’s time to get to work fixing them.” I’m in the latter, and we’ll see where that takes me. Graduating college isn’t the end, it’s the beginning – and I’m damn excited to get started.