Gold in the Olentangy River
A recent graduate, Joe Sitzwohl, reflects on the university’s powerful network and encourages a new freshman class to take in “the river.”
My favorite analogy for Ohio State is a big, long river — a network of tributaries, springs and channels, diverse and spread out over hundreds of miles, yet connected.
More than half a million Ohio State alumni, thousands of current students and hundreds of faculty are all on differing life journeys but powerfully bonded by their shared experiences at the university.
First of all, there’s the residence hall experience. Water-molecule-like bonds are forged by living within six seconds of countless other 18-year-olds. It’s hard to forget those people you studied with, ate with, walked to class with and slept next to day-in and day-out. In fact, within a week of moving to New York City after graduation, I ran into an old friend who I had originally met back in our freshman dorm, Blackburn House. Instantaneously, I felt at home again seeing him.
Who would have guessed that a few short years after studying Excel algorithms in the basement of that old brick building we would later be touring the Metropolitan Museum of Art together?
When floating along the river it’s hard to tell what twists and turns may be just around the bend. Especially for the millions of future students upstream, generations away, making their way toward Columbus. Brace yourself and strap tight your floatie armbands; there will be bumpy times when you’re swamped with exams, when you’re surrounded by unfamiliar faces and when you’re sick without Mom to spoon-feed you chicken noodle soup. C’est la vie: Every river has whirlpools and dried-up banks in spots.
For myself, I had a tough time finding friends during the first months at school, and I didn’t know what I wanted to study until junior year. This made me feel like I was panning for gold in a barren stream. But eventually I discovered personal growth, lifelong friends, engaging classes, beautiful people, creative thinkers, career opportunities and wise mentors all worth their weight in gold.
I just had to build up the courage to swim in the river, even take a few deep-dives below the surface. Instead of mindlessly thumbing through my iPhone before lectures, I struck up conversations with classmates, and I started asking older students for advice. Some of my most memorable deep dives included studying abroad, trying Greek Life and adding a minor to my degree.
There are a million different ways to experience the river that is Ohio State. You don’t have to go deep diving or swimming outside your comfort zone — though I suggest you do. It doesn’t take a physics major to know gold nuggets don’t naturally rise to the surface.