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Mari Katherine Raftopoulos: Library lessons


Faintly through the headphones of a girl studying for her biology midterm, the sound of Carrie Underwood's song 'Don't Forget to Remember Me' whispers comfort.

"Mama don't forget to tell my baby sister I'll see her in the fall," she sings. "And make sure you tell daddy that I am still his little girl."

She has comfort back home, a place away from the stress, the deadlines and the cubicle. That comfort is a text message away now. She smiles when she receives a text from her mother saying 'good luck today honey, I love you,' because her mother's encouragement brought her here.

From this cubicle, the library seems boring, but behind her, she finds the comfort of her sisters, her friends and the sun shining through the elongated windows. Laughter and loud chatter echoes from the back of the library and tempts her to push aside her homework for another day.

But that would be hypocritical coming from a girl who criticizes those who come to the library to socialize. There is talk of a themed house party, stories from last weekend and even a new romance blossoming from a library blind date. She enjoys listening to the different accents of the students as they interact.

This scene perfectly portrays the mission statement of the university that reads, "creating a diverse and inclusive community" and "advancing academic excellence."

Students come from a variety of towns, cities and countries to the University of San Diego, and here, they congregate in the Copley library to create a community and expand their knowledge and the knowledge of their peers.

Her eyes are heavy from the lack of sleep, and the mountain of Kleenex keeps growing due to her cold.

She is ironically thankful for this sickness at this time because the combined smell of musty old library book pages, caramel macchiato and perfume usually makes her nauseated.

As she peers over her wooden cubicle, 20 more stand in the distance filled with her colleagues. Some diligently studying, some checking Facebook and others reading the same sentence 20 times. Still distracted from memorizing the stages of Mitosis, a large cross hanging on the opposite wall invites her. Like a welcome mat, a hug or a smile, the cross in the library makes her feel warm inside.

The cross couldn't take away her midterm, but it could provide relief. It reminds her to put things in perspective, that there is more to life than getting an A. The cross reminds her of both the values she inherited from childhood and the university values she has adopted.

She knows she will leave the cross in the library only to see its twin above the doorway of her classroom. But what happens when she leaves the classroom forever? And this is no longer how she spends her Sunday nights.

Yesterday, when I went to the library to study, I learned a better lesson than any book could teach me. His name was Roy. He was 30 and a graduate student of the business school. When I sat down at the computer beside him, giggling and talking at the top of my lungs, Roy's reaction was much more mature than that of a young college student like myself.

He nodded his head and smiled. I knew he was older because any other student would have glared, pretended to concentrate and then left two minutes later.

After shuffling through my notebook and planner, I finally found the mini-Post-it with the information I needed.

Still, Roy remained calm.

And when I complained about the complication of the passport renewal process in the U.S. and the format of my resume, Roy knew that, clearly, my mind wasn't focused for studying that night.

So we started talking life.

And the interviewer within me began asking questions.

I asked Roy, "Why are you the owner of a financial investment company in graduate school and in the library this late on a Sunday night?"

"I didn't need this education to put on my resume, and I didn't need a diploma to hang on my wall," he said. "I am here because I want to learn."

Its simple, I know.

To learn - that is the reason most people come to the library. But in reality, college students come to the library to memorize and forget the information after the test is complete. And when I asked Roy for advice to succeeding in college, he said, "Enjoy it, because it goes fast."

With my junior year fast approaching and a summer internship in the making, I decided the reading assignment could wait until morning.

When people graduate college, the deadlines of papers, finals and presentations are lifted off their shoulders.

No more double overnighters or days spent surviving on only caffeine in the library awaits them.

And when you graduate, you look back on all that you have accomplished. What do you remember? Do you remember the A you got on one quiz or the night you skipped studying to watch the sunset over the ocean by the warmth of a bonfire?


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