50 Things I Learned in College


In October 2013, I wrote my first blog post for the University of Rochester’s Office of Admissions. I’d been a Rochester student for just over a month and was still acclimating to campus, establishing friendships, deciding what to major in, and finding out what it meant to be a Rochester student. Since then, I have written 37 posts chronicling my college experience. I’ve written about why I chose Rochester and how I prepared for college. I’ve covered the logistics of student life—housing, studying, and paying for tuition—as well as my experiences off campus and outside of the academic year. I’ve done posts about studying abroad, my favorite clubs and classes, and community engagement. And I’ve done my best to convey how much I love my school and how lucky I feel to have spent the last four years here. Now, as I write my final installment, it feels rather surreal to look back on all those posts and try to figure out the best way to conclude them.

Back when I wrote that first post, I said that my favorite thing about Rochester was the flexibility it gives students to explore everything they love. This remains true today. But I don’t think I fully realized what that flexibility would mean back when I was first starting out. Sure, flexibility sounded wonderful, but I couldn’t possibly have imagined the trajectory my college years would take or all the incredible and diverse opportunities I would be able to take advantage of thanks to Rochester’s dedication to supporting their students’ varied interests. So as I prepare for graduation, I thought I’d use this last post to take a look at my Rochester education (academic, social, and practical) and highlight some of the important things I’ve learned along the way.

  1. I love journalism but don’t want to be a journalist. As much as I have enjoyed my work with the Campus Times and value the lessons journalism has taught me, professional journalism just isn’t the place for me.
  1. It’s turtles all the way down. The unofficial motto of my anthropology class, we picked up this bit of wisdom about never being able to get to the bottom of things from Clifford Geertz’ “Thick Description.”
  1. InDesign can be both incredibly time-saving and incredibly time-wasting.
  1. I now know how to pump gas. Back home in Oregon, gas station attendants pump it for you.
  1. I’ve learned how to plant garlic. Thanks to the talented youth of SeedFolk City Farm.­
  1. Contemporary fiction is just as important as the classics. It’s just as valuable to read the works of George Saunders, Jennifer Egan, and Jonathan Safran Foer as it is to read the works of Jane Austin, George Orwell, and Mark Twain. 
  1. Being a vegetarian is worth it. It’s healthier, cheaper, protects people and animals from mistreatment, and is one of the very best ways to decrease environmental destruction.
  1. Living alone can be lonely. While I prefer to have my own room, having apartment mates makes home life a lot more enjoyable.
  1. Having a bike changes everything. See “Rochester by Bike.”
  1. You can get through college without drinking coffee. I promise.
  1. Rochester in the summer is a different world than Rochester in the winter.
  1. Buying produce at a farmers market can be cheaper than buying produce at a grocery store.
  1. In New York, you only have to be 18 to rent a car. From that one time Greyhound stranded my alternative spring break group in New York City and we had to rent cars to get back to Rochester.
  1. I learned how to salsa dance. A skill partially learned in Honduras and partially learned with the kids of Rochester School No. 12’s Salsa Dancing Club.
  1. I know how to manually develop film. One of the coolest parts of taking Intro to Photography.
  1. The American food system is more messed up than most people realize.
  1. Some birds have ultraviolet feathers. One of the most interesting facts I learned in my brain and cognitive sciences class on animal minds.
  1. I know what a Panopticon is. Do you?
  1. I’ve learned the difference between (il)legal and (il)licit. Just because something is technically illegal doesn’t mean it’s socially/culturally taboo (and just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean it’s socially/culturally acceptable).
  1. I now know how to record stage blocking. See “The Wonderful World of Todd Theatre.”
  1. I know how to speak basic Thai. See “The Perks of Learning Thai in Thailand.”
  1. I’ve learned how to conduct an interview.
  1. There’s no such thing as “proper” English. Something I wish I’d learned earlier in life.
  1. The medium is the message. Thanks to Marshal McLuhan and Intro to Media Studies, I now know that the way something is communicated can sometimes be more important than the message of the communication.
  1. Trust the process. Sometimes we should just embrace an experience and not worry about if we’re doing everything right.
  1. I understand what bilingual education looks like. The topic of my group’s project in Journalism Case Studies, featuring School No. 12’s HOLA program.
  1. I learned how to do a photo essay. One of the many fun assignments I got to tackle while studying abroad.
  1. Sometimes art/animation is closer to reality than photos/videos. The thesis of my final paper for Documentary Film.
  1. I know how to write a grant proposal.
  1. I learned how to write a lesson plan.
  1. And how to tie-dye.
  1. I learned about the significance of the Harlem Renaissance. My Harlem Renaissance class opened my eyes to the importance of this historical period and introduced me to some of the best literature I’ve ever read.
  1. I’ve experienced what it’s like to travel alone. Spending a few solo days in Seoul, South Korea, was one of the highlights of my semester abroad.
  1. I see the importance of having friends that are just as introspective as you are.
  1. I know how to make a baleada. Another important skill learned in Honduras.
  1. I learned how to plan a day of service. See “Wilson Day 2016.”
  1. Four Rochester parks were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The guy who designed NYC’s Central Park also designed Rochester’s Genesee Valley Park, Highland Park, Maplewood Park, and Seneca Park.
  1. I’ve come to understand the importance of cultural relativism. And the harm of ethnocentrism.
  1. I am not a night owl. Regardless of the substantial number of late nights I’ve had in college, I will forever be a morning person who likes to go to bed early.
  1. Dr. Seuss was kind of sexist. The thesis of my English Senior Seminar final paper.
  1. I learned what deism is. An unexpected bit of knowledge picked up in Writing 105.
  1. I know how to design a magazine.
  1. And how to design a newspaper. See “Life is a Campus Times Editor.”
  1. I even learned how to diagram a sentence. One of my favorite parts of Intro to Linguistic Analysis.
  1. I see now what modern art is all about. Discovering the line between art and not art.
  1. I know the joy of being part of an active Facebook messenger group. Or several.
  1. I’ve learned how to maintain long-distance friendships. And short-distance ones for that matter.
  1. I want to go into community development. While I don’t know exactly what I want my future career to be, I know I want to do something that helps make communities stronger and more equitable.
  1. Nature, gender, and race are social constructs. We should never fool ourselves into thinking there’s anything natural about these concepts.
  1. Above all, I’ve come to fully understand that Rochester was the right school for me.

About the author

Jamie Rudd

I'm a member of the Class of 2017 majoring in English and anthropology. Originally from a small town in Oregon, I'm currently the Community Service Chair of the Students Helping Honduras service group and presentation editor of the Campus Times newspaper.

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