I like to say I’ve learned a lot in my time at Concordia. I truly have, though I suspect I’ve forgotten a lot as well. I can’t say for certain since, you know, it’s forgotten. The truth of it is that so many of the things worth knowing I learned in my time here. A lot of it didn’t come from books, and most of it came despite my best efforts to remain exactly the same person I was when I came here. Still, at some point, without realizing it, I grew into the person I am now.

I’m taking a break from my usual format because it has finally fully hit me: in a month and a half I will be a college graduate. My super-senior semester is nearing its end and before too much longer, I’ll be joining the class of 2011 in search of the American dream. There are some intense pressures on this group of graduates: an average individual debt of $22,900 at graduation and lower initial earnings (the Collegiate Employment Research Institute estimates that the average salary for holders of new bachelor degrees will be $36,866 this year, down from $46,500 in 2009), just to name a couple. It’s a big, scary and expensive world out there, and a sheet of paper with Concordia’s seal on it is starting to look like weak armor.

However, that paper represents more than just credit hours and letter grades. It’s a statement that says “I rose up to meet challenge after challenge, and I succeeded.” Maybe more importantly, it represents the personal growth that each graduate has accomplished. It’s for those reasons, in my mind, that pursuing a bachelor’s degree is so important, and it’s the reason I value Concordia’s focus on liberal arts education so greatly. The course work and skills, those are all vital, of course. But the lessons that make me optimistic are not the ones that I learned from books.

Coming out of high school, I was prideful, vain and desperately afraid of becoming obscure and unimportant; image was everything to me, even when I didn’t realize it. Four and a half years later, I haven’t exactly pulled a 180. In fact, my close friends would probably still accuse me of having a pretty high opinion of myself, but it’s mostly tempered with sarcasm delivered with a wink and a nod; a satire of the person I was. Concordia encouraged (and in some ways forced) me to experience the things that shaped me into a slightly better version of the punk who started out here.

I’ve learned that it’s okay to admit that I don’t know everything and that the world is full of people who will not look down on me when I have to ask a stupid question. I’ve discovered that I have so much to learn from others: by relying on only myself, I miss out on every opportunity to expand my view and understanding of the world. Perhaps most importantly, I developed a sense of responsibility, not just to myself but to everyone around me. They may seem cliché but these are the lessons that I’m going to take with me in December as I start an entirely new, unknown chapter in my life. More than anything, they are what makes me confident that I’ll rise up to this challenge as well. Of course, that piece of paper will come in handy too.

Eric Lillehaugen

A super-senior working at the ITS Solution Center on campus Eric enjoys the summer breezes, long walks on the beach and late-night Halo matches conquering all those who dare step before him.

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