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Opinion

New semester not the only challenge

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February 5, 2009

Welcome back to UW-River Falls, my friends. It’s great to be writing for you again. I feel something special in the air—maybe the winds of change that are sweeping by all of us these days. We can feel them as students, as U.S. citizens and as people in general.

As students, we’re adjusting to brand new class schedules—many of us with teachers we’ve never heard of, buildings we never had to visit before and perhaps times that make us cringe – I scored an 8 a.m. class this time around.

We have police officers in Public Safety for the first time ever. New restaurants and a hotel are popping up near campus and the last one could potentially increase traffic. Finally, as most of us know, we will soon have a new UWRF chancellor. So there are plenty of academic changes to get used to.

But it doesn’t end there. As Americans, we face another set of problems. The declining economy will leave us with less financial aid opportunities (not to mention further dependence on ramen noodles), and a tough job market in most of our chosen fields. We have a new president who is being closely watched by much of the world as he begins to lead the country into these difficult times.

But in a way, the biggest changes are the ones that touch us deep inside. These are things that go beyond lugging home 15 textbooks or trying to sit through the bad news on TV. They might include missing your family or friends after a long holiday break or inner frustration about surviving lots of work last semester and now having to do it all over again. I know I’ve experienced both of those.

Of course, things could be worse. None of the problems I’ve listed so far are really bothering me, at least not yet. So what’s the big change I’m getting used to? On top of everything else—the work, the schedule, reconciling school with home and my job—the toughest part is not what I’m coming back to. It’s what I left behind. I have a girlfriend who lives almost 2,000 miles away—and, after months of talking with just about every method of remote communication you can think of, I was finally able to fly out and meet her. It went off perfectly; it was one of the best experiences of my life. But it’s over, at least for now.

We said goodbye just a few weeks ago. And now here I am back in Minnesota, going about my business and commuting to UWRF as always. That’s the change that really hurts. Since then, the other stuff hasn’t seemed so important to me. As a student and a U.S. citizen, I’m doing just fine so far. As a person, I’m still recovering from the separation, and I’m counting the days until we’re together again.

But as usual, there is a silver lining. If we can handle challenges like that inside our hearts, going back to school should be no sweat. Whatever adjustments all of you may be dealing with, you have my best wishes. Let’s make this semester one to remember.