Tech forces students to come full circle

A bit earlier this year I received a mysterious letter in the mail. Taking a second to examine the envelope, I was caught a bit off-guard because the handwriting on the envelope looked suspiciously like my own. After opening and reading the letter I realized that I had written the letter myself actually, as an exercise in my GT1000 class in 2006 at the beginning of my freshman year.

Yes, it was a blast from the past—a letter from my “former self” to the future. I found it both entertaining and interesting to read, as my “former self” described all my fears, hopes and dreams about college life.

Reading the letter was like jumping in a time machine back four years and meeting my former self.

The former self that was terrified of leaving the familiarity of high school and being thrown into a completely new environment. The former self that was filled with unbridled excitement to take the reins on life and get the most out of the present. The former self that had high hopes for the road ahead.

Wait a second. This “former self” doesn’t sound very much different than my “current self.” I’m pretty much in the same situation. I’m almost at the end of my career at Tech with a long list of familiar experiences. I’m excited yet terrified of what lies ahead in the working world. I’m once again starting over with a blank slate, as I move ahead into a new chapter of my life that I know nothing about.

The wheels start turning in my head as I wonder, “Am I really back at the same spot that I was four years ago?” Well, yes and no.

While I might be experiencing some of the same feelings that I did coming in as a wee freshman, I know that Tech has left a mark on me, and I hope that I have been able to leave my own mark on Tech as well, as the thousands of alumni of Ma Tech have before me.

People say that college is supposed to be the best four years of your life. People also say that Tech is supposed to be the hardest four, five or six years of your life. These two statements are not mutually exclusive; sure, Tech is tough, but it is also a truly amazing place like no other. There are things that I will always remember—the coffee-fueled late nights, the bountiful free food, the thrill of screaming my lungs out at a football game, the satisfaction of putting together an awesome event for a student organization and most of all, the new friendships I have built. It is the sum of these experiences that I can honestly say comprise the best four years of my life thus far.

But these experiences are no accident. We, as the students, are collectively responsible for shaping each other’s lives, whether intentionally or not. Every little thing that we do has the capability to change the world around us. And in each phase of our lives the scope gets a bit bigger. From the playground to the campus to the world, we have a responsibility to leave our mark.

It’s no coincidence that Tech has produced some pretty ballin’ people: mayors, U.S. presidents, Nobel laureates, astronauts, CEOs and many more. Something about their Tech experience inspired them to do great things.

None of us should leave Tech, or any phase of our lives for that matter, without making a difference.

We should all be striving to be active members of the Tech community. Yeah, Tech is super hard, but that should be no excuse for us to simply go through the motions and then leave four, five or six years later.

It could be answering a survey about what matters most to students, planning an event for something you’re interested in, giving your feedback about where Tech should be in the next 25 years or even something as simple as casting a vote in a student election. These are all examples of opportunities to get involved that a lot of people take for granted.

What so many people fail to realize is that a small bit of participation and investment in the Tech community ultimately helps to shape the experience for future generations of Tech students.

We should make a conscious effort to maintain and improve the quality of the student experience, and that means being active in the campus community. To improve the Tech experience for others takes less time and effort than many people realize.

And trust me, the time flies by so quickly, so make the most out of your time at Tech. Even if you don’t think you will miss it, you just might.