By Jess Decina
Not too long ago, my father asked me what I’d learned from my four years at Rider. He jokingly added he would not be very happy if I said, “Nothing.”
My answer to him was the same answer I’ve given everyone: I have learned that my experiences at Rider — really, in any aspect of my life — happened because I gave and got back. I made the most of what I had. College is one of those extraordinary times in your life that allows you to make whatever you want of it; you’ll take from it exactly what you’ve put in.
I’ve taken an extra 10 minutes out of class to talk and network with professors and earned recommendations for two internships. I’ve taken my interest in theater and earned the chance to be an integral part of two amazing Fine Arts performances, first as a stage manager and then as an assistant director. I’ve taken my experiences in class and at The Rider News and earned awards for newspaper writing. I’ve taken that four-hour bus ride to Albany to cheer for the Broncs in the MAAC finals and earned a night I will never forget, no matter what the final score was at the end.
But I’d be lying to you if I said I had four years free from hardship, heartache or hurt. This year alone saw a lot of loss, a lot of pain and a constant stream of bad news. But it’s been said that what doesn’t kill us makes us who we are.
I learned how to pick up my pieces. I learned to fight sorrow with pride, to trade challenges for new ideas. I’ve learned from my experiences, both good and bad. It’s funny; at the end of the day, I’m grateful that college hasn’t always been easy. I think our hardships help us face reality, even when reality isn’t always in our favor. As May 9 quickly approaches, there’s a lot of uncertainty awaiting those of us about to graduate.
I’ve spent the past six weeks applying for jobs, zig-zagging my way across the Garden State for job interviews and trying to ignore the heavy burden of having to move back home for however long. For that whole time, all I’ve wanted are some answers: Will I get a job? Will I have to live at home for very long? When will it all fall into place?
For a while I felt discouraged and betrayed. Four years of putting so much time and effort into college didn’t seem to put me ahead of the game at all. But I realized something, and though it’s not very earth-shattering, it’s helped enormously: it is what it is. The best any of us can do is make the most of what we have.
Rider has taught me so much about making the most of it. In four years, I have not only learned and grown as a student, but I have learned and grown as a human being. I am an accomplished journalist, but I’m also an accomplished young adult. I owe so much to the people who have helped shape me along the way: my parents, my professors and my friends.
There’s a terrific quote from the movie Miracle that goes, “This is your time. Now go out there and take it.” My advice is simply this: Your college experience — and in all likelihood, your life experience — will give you a wealth of opportunity. I hope you all will, in one way or another, “go out there and take it.”