Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Hail and farewell

A reflection on learning

Isaac Simon

Isaac Simon

By Isaac Simon

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I don’t remember the Communications 140 final I took four years ago. I can’t recall a single question on the exam or the grade I got. But I do remember the epic study session I had with two great people the night before—friends that I am still close with to this day. Although I remember the relief of finishing assignments and handing in presentations, it was the conscious act of indulging myself in my own education that proved to make for the most rewarding experiences.

When I graduated from high school, I was unsure of the college experience I wanted, in part because I assumed there was a standard experience I should have. My fondness for the Midwest had my eyes set on the University of Minnesota, but I didn’t get in, so I went to Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin instead. I stayed a week, and then flew back home. I was accepted to the University of Massachusetts for the spring semester and promised my parents that I would make it work. Little did I know that nothing needed to be forced.

This is my 83rd piece for the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, a newspaper I began writing for four springs ago. Since then, I have written pieces under all sections (with even one story gracing the cover as a sophomore), but found my place and purpose as a columnist. As a freshman, I would often write a column a week. Other semesters, I struggled to produce prose for my scheduled slot. All that aside, it was the process of pursuing each piece that made the columnist experience rewarding.

During my time at UMass, I joined a fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta, and made friends that were as invested in my success as I was in theirs. The guys I met became my brothers, and in some cases my roommates, and reaffirmed the strong sentiment that FIJI is not for college days alone.

For a long time, I have been a big believer in giving the nod to Mark Twain and not letting my schooling intertwine with my education. But, that in no way discounts the beautiful moments when the two came together. I had the privilege of working with great scholars who specialized in subjects I was able to both respect and regard beyond the classroom. This was made possible through my work with Professors Ralph Melnick and James Young, two great mentors who influenced me deeply. My studies with Christian Appy proved to be an equally integral part of my college experience. My work with Shawn Shimpach was fun and fascinating, especially once I learned that he studied with Robert Sklar, a mentor shared by both himself and my father.

I found a home at Hillel; it was there that I found a home amongst other Jews and met other students that help foster and cultivate my Zionism. I became a strong Israel-advocate for the Student Alliance for Israel, and took pride in speaking my truth to power against Students for Justice in Palestine.

My highlights in college really came during my junior and senior year. It was then that I learned the importance of finding oneself while harnessing the capacity to care for others. During this time, I began managing Yookeroo, a rock band which formed at UMass and was worthy of recognition by this newspaper. What began as jam sessions in Herter Hall four years ago eventually led to releasing an album and a spring tour to showcase it, culminating in a performance at The Bitter End in New York City. There is nothing more rewarding than putting your heart into pursuits and watching them come to fruition.

Lastly, I want to take this time to thank my editors, starting from the people I worked with four years ago. From Zac Bears to Kate Foster to Tess Halpern and all the copy and night editors in between, thank you for keeping me in my place and on my toes, always holding me to the highest of standards. I wrote many pieces that were never published, and it took me months to understand why. But even during times of disagreement, I knew that it made me a better writer. To the editors who worked with me when I couldn’t make a deadline, and to those who made me find more legitimate sources to cite, thank you for your encouragement and dedication. Your investment in me allowed me to further invest in myself.

For me, the beauty of college stemmed from students’ relationship to time. UMass managed to move at its own pace, a wavelength onto its own while also staying connected to its surroundings. High school poisoned education by making learning mandatory. College made it voluntary. UMass made it necessary. I just wish I could have been better.

 

Isaac Simon was a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

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