SCHONEKER: Our new beginning



Jake Schoneker

Here it comes, so brace yourself – the obligatory it’s-the-end-of-my-college-career-so-let-me-reminisce-for-a-moment-of-melodrama column. This might be a good time for you seniors to throw on some mood music – “Graduation Song” or “Time of Your Life” should do nicely. I’ll wait.

Ready? OK. Now I don’t want to disappoint you, but if you want something sappy about the wonders of college life and how sad it is to graduate, you may want to look elsewhere. The simple fact is that the best times I’ve had at Villanova are the times when I’ve left Villanova, so forgive me if the idea of leaving our idyllic academic paradise for good is more than a little exciting.

Of course, that’s not to say that I won’t miss this place. The people I’ve come to know here and the things I’ve learned will stay with me for a lifetime. (I can hear Vitamin C now …) I’m sure when I look back at college I’ll remember the late nights and early mornings in the library, the afternoons spent relaxing in the Grotto, the Mendel Doug sightings, all the rugby parties and NovaFests.

More than anything, I’ll remember all the characters I’ve met and our times together that have made the past four years such a great ride.

OK, you can turn the music off now. This past weekend, I was standing suffocating in Kelly’s, and I began pondering my last Nova-Fest. Here was the pinnacle of the Villanova experience. Here were my classmates, some of the best and brightest young people in the world, stumbling over each other in an epic drunken contest to see who can black out the fastest, who can forget the most. We’ve been reduced to shadows, fighting for space in a dark place. These are the best years of our lives?

Why? Because we can party with reckless abandon and forego any real work until the last second with few or no consequences? Maybe. There is a certain magic to that lack of responsibility, and I know it as much as anybody. But that window is closing, friends, and so I’m left looking for something else to take away from these last four years.

For me, the college experience has been less about what I’ve learned (or forgotten) here on campus as it is about what Villanova has allowed me to do outside.

My experiences with the Service Learning Community have enriched my education, allowing me to learn from teachers without PhDs – the children of Philadelphia schools. Through Campus Ministry service break experiences, I have met some of the most inspiring people I know in Louisiana and Peru. Finally, the hard-working people at the Office of International Studies enabled me to spend the best year of my life in China and Brazil, where I learned more about the world than in my other three Villanova years combined.

These are the things that I’ll really take away from college. Each time I’ve left Villanova, I have grown, and I’ve returned a more capable, more complete person. When I leave this time, there won’t be any coming back. But in graduating I’ve come to realize that all of those departures – those first steps outside that Villanova has allowed me to take – have all been in preparation for this next step: the dive out into an independent existence, into a complex reality.

It’s fitting that we have Kenneth Hackett of Catholic Relief Services as our commencement speaker this year. Hackett has devoted his life to spreading social justice around the globe – a man we should all be inspired by. If I’ve learned anything at Villanova, it’s that the only way to educate yourself is to immerse yourself in the world around you, to expose yourself to all its danger and its beauty.

Our education, you see, has only just begun. So thanks, Villanova, it’s been real – but if you’ll excuse me, I have some learning to do.


Jake Schoneker is a senior humanities and political science major from Landsdale, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].