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Learning doesn't just come from books

As the first finals week of my college career (finally) careens into view, I'm finding that I've actually learned a lot from my first four months away from home.

Some of it's obvious, like that playing Bloons Tower Defense 3 and watching the entire first season of "30 Rock" are way more fun than writing term paper proposals and translating Latin passages about Horace's early years.

But other lessons have struck me as slightly more astonishing, like that college kids go to restaurants late at night to -- this is where they lost me -- do homework?

I've often heard that college teaches you that you know nothing. I wouldn't go that far -- I knew how to tie my shoes and that George W. cut down the cherry tree before I got here -- but college certainly has a way of proving that things aren't exactly what they seemed.

Cautionary note: shockingly enough, a great deal of what I've learned hasn't come from class. (Imagine that.)

For one, the Concordia Christmas Concert taught me that you aren't always supposed to clap after every song, contrary to my belief and prior practice.


Also, when people go to a performance, they want to hear the performers -- not fellow audience members -- sing the songs. When one of the audience participation verses was over, and the woman next to me was still singing along, I was not only relieved when her husband whispered, "That's not for you -- it's their turn," but a little ashamed when I realized I've sung along at every musical I've ever attended.

I also found that slacking through class work isn't really an option anymore: I'm currently 67 (outside of class) hours into a final project, and I still have a presentation to give and a manuscript to revise for the umpteenth time. By the due date, an estimated three days of my life will have gone toward a single paper. Gross.

I've learned that there are few constants, but that being tired and having homework are two of them.

I recently found that it's not just yours, but everybody's family that's weird. After witnessing concert-going clans on campus all weekend, I'm reminded of Zazu's line from "The Lion King:" "There's one in every family sir. Two in mine." I have now seen entire surnames made up of said "ones."

Also, it's not impossible to miss a crazy family that's merely 45 minutes away...especially when they're decorating the Christmas tree without you for the first time ever.

I've learned that we all need help. If we miss a class, forget to bring a towel to the shower, can't carry the laundry basket alone by the time we get around to doing it, or don't understand why the printer is beeping at me like that, it's good to know really cool people who let their paper-writing procrastination linger while helping you figure out MLA formatting.

Also, I've learned to be flexible to change. For example, when your latest piercing erupts into painful pustules and you can't touch your left ear anymore, being able to very quickly develop the habit of sleeping on your right side is necessary.

I found that there's a surprising amount of things to do at 4 a.m., including Facebook chatting with the majority of the college-age people you know.

And I've learned that, when your dorm is otherwise occupied and the library's lost its luster, Perkins doubles as a good cup of coffee and an open textbook-sized space.

Thressa Johnson graduated from Detroit Lakes High School and attends Concordia College in Moorhead.