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CMU students: get involved with the world around you

Carnegie Mellon students are known for being insular. Those of you who are new here may discover that the stories of people who live on campus, go to school on campus, and don?t go off-campus for weeks at a time aren?t just stories. Too many students come to CMU with the belief that the keys to a full life here and working hard at classes to get As and finding a good job at the end of four (or five) years. They believe the time before entering the workforce is the final chance to do things that make a difference in the world. It is essential to realize, though, that there are other important parts of a full college education besides just studying.

Our upcoming presidential election is one such example. No matter what their political leanings, people need to get out, vote, and make their voices heard. This is doubly true for any Pennsylvania natives: It is still a swing state and we could be the next Florida. There is no reason to have a repeat of such a situation. Go do voter registration drives around the city; hand out campaign literature door-to-door. An uncast vote is a vote for the opposition.

It is also important not to simply focus on what is happening close to home. In a culture that has been become known for celebrating positive self-images, deserved or not, more and more people fall victim each year to depression. It is important to keep life in perspective. Yes, dining might disappoint again this year and classes are difficult, dull, and required, but life here at CMU beats fearing that the Janjaweed could come and kill everyone you have ever known. Hiding from the truth does not help anyone, and the problems of the world will not disappear through willful ignorance. We need to take action whether it is something like sending aid to those less fortunate or just writing to your Congressional representatives to let them know that someone cares what is going on out there.
And even with all these things that are matters of life and death, there is also the little stuff. Few people can work here full-bore and then go straight to saving the world. Relaxing makes a person that much more effective in everything else, and it?s impossible to fully relax in the Wean clusters or an eight-by-twelve foot dorm room. Pittsburgh may not be the same as New York or California; on the bright side, it?s cheaper, and there are no parents to give orders or set curfews. Freedom has a sweet flavor, and college gives you the opportunity to taste it. Try something new. Go play in the snow; there should be enough of it when winter comes. Eat out at a different restaurant in Oakland or Shadyside. Go to a movie somewhere other than McConomy Auditorium or the Waterfront. Those who complain that there?s nothing to do in Pittsburgh have not looked hard enough.

It comes down to this: Get off-campus. Expand your horizons and expand your mind. When people talk about college being a learning experience, they are not just talking about classes. They are talking about life, so be proactive and get one.