After two years spent engaging with Georgetown University students, faculty and staff as a professor in the McDonough School of Business, I have found the Hilltop full of the electric energy that radiates from people who are “going places.”
I like to count myself among those people. My time at Georgetown has been tremendously productive, inspired me as an educator and researcher and taught me lessons that will impact my life and career. However, we who are “going places” often fall victim to a particularly unfortunate folly: a failure to appreciate where we are.
Georgetown has been a rewarding stop on a journey toward my long-term goals, such as publishing my dissertation, starting new research with fellow Georgetown faculty and becoming a better teacher. Even though I have made progress toward these goals, I find myself wondering what I would have done if I were returning next year. With this query in mind, I encourage students — both those graduating and those continuing at Georgetown — to consider the following advice.
Invest in relationships outside of your immediate circle. Work on school projects with classmates whom you do not know, even if you have the option to work with those whom you have worked with before. Join a student group without knowing anybody in it. Say “yes” when someone you just met asks you to coffee, even if you’d rather sleep in than make small talk with a stranger. On a personal level, relationships with others make life interesting and fulfilling. From a professional standpoint, a network is one of the most valuable assets you can develop, and there is no better place to begin than in college. If I had more time at Georgetown, I would improve my efforts at building relationships with those outside my department.
Take advantage of living in Washington, D.C. Looking back, I wish I had made time to visit all the museums and galleries, attend more think tank discussions and maybe even join a demonstration or two. If I had more years at Georgetown, I would take more walks by the river and visit the Virginia wine country; maybe I would even do a Segway tour — don’t laugh. Some of my favorite recent discoveries, made in my last-ditch efforts to enjoy D.C., include the Phillips’ Collection, Capital Bike Share — which I knew existed, but for some reason never bothered to try — and the 30-minute train to Baltimore. Create your “D.C. Bucket List” and get started right away. Be it long or short, do not let your remaining time slip away without enjoying all D.C. has to offer.
Lastly, as you continue to look toward the future, do not neglect the present. When I started at Georgetown, I was immediately struck by how diligent, forward-looking and well-rounded the students and faculty are. While thinking ahead is necessary, we also must remember to live in the present. Your future — or at least your immediate future after graduating — will likely be dominated by 60-hour work weeks and mind-numbing decisions — should I use my personal day off from work to cross laundry, groceries and the DMV off of my to-do list, or should I wait for an open Saturday? You may eventually wish to add a partner, family, even — gasp! — hobbies into the mix. You may not miss studying for exams, but you will likely miss going out on a Wednesday and taking a nap on Thursday afternoon.
Whatever the present moment has provided you — whether the choice to visit home versus vacationing with friends for spring break, or to spend versus save your first “real” paycheck — take a moment to appreciate where you are right now. Though this habit will take a lifetime to master, start now.
We cannot recapture the past. Neither I, nor the graduating senior nor the freshman finishing their first year of college can return to their first day at Georgetown. But we can all take a moment to reflect on what we’ve learned, what opportunities we have missed or capitalized on and what we would do over if we could. We can vow to ourselves to use what we’ve learned going forward.
My road continues on after Georgetown, and I am leaving better prepared to make the most out of the road that lies ahead. Your journey does not end on graduation day: It continues on. In many ways, it begins afresh.
Dr. Amanda Beck is a visiting professor in the accounting group in the McDonough School of Business.