Underclassmen, be warned: Brush up on your small talk skills or you may be in for a whirlwind of a senior year. From stuffy networking events to boisterous family meet-ups, people will want to know whether college has “paid off” for you. For the senior, reciprocation is demanded, especially when that first, daunting question lingers in the air.

“So, how does it feel?” inquiring minds ask you, their eyes widening and voices shifting to deeper, more reflective tones. The first time someone asks, you stiffen up. The “it” is very clearly the end of senior year, a fact that leads to the implicit prodding for details on life after senior year and post-graduation plans.

Usually, the senior blurts out something that sounds very convincing and self-assured. In particular, my go-to senior spring update — “I feel like my Georgetown experience is complete and now I’m savoring it” — has gotten me thinking recently. What makes a college experience complete? More importantly for you, underclassman reader, what makes a Georgetown experience complete?

College tempts us to live out our experiences in measurable ways. For me, that has meant everything from the pressure cooker of intensive Arabic classes to the higher-pressure cooker of college journalism. In both of these experiences and many others, I worked tirelessly toward completion. Why? Because for college students, completeness is presumed to be the ideal in life experience.

Let’s take Arabic. My yearning for the complete could be satisfied in a proficiency exam, fulfillment of the minor, or even the realization that I could hold up a steady conversation with native Arabic speakers on a trip last winter.

At The Hoya, my roles as a senior editor, executive editor and later editor-in-chief all served as microcosms of the four-year strictures enforced by college. Achievement, in the organizational structure, was superficially confined to half-year or year terms, depending on the role. As with any other college organization, we often left concerns for institutional memory and the long-term to the wayside; in exchange, we would savor the tangible notions of completeness that we could cling to during the time we had in our Leavey offices.

In our struggle to be individuals who get ahead, we don’t like failing, and we certainly don’t like accepting that progress toward more completeness takes time. We press forward assuming we can just start over after checking “Georgetown” off our bucket list, degree in hand.

Since I realized Georgetown is never really complete, I’ve been able to rebound from the small-talking half-truths by living out my Georgetown experience in more meaningful ways. Working toward intellectual, personal and professional goals I had long put to the side, I have found my college experience to be slowly inching toward a more complete version of incomplete.

Georgetown is hardly bound by this campus, these four years or the peers we spend them with. Georgetown is a lifestyle we live out beyond our time on campus. As we build our character, challenge ourselves, give back to the university and commit to meaningful relationships, we chant “Hoya Saxa” to the world around us. In short, we begin savoring the incompleteness that makes us human.

Just as with small talk of course, it takes some time in the trenches to come to this realization. Indeed, it can be beneficial to take the laser-vision view toward graduation that so many students adopt here. Doing so endows you with a drive that will serve you well.

But when you find yourself disillusioned by the undergraduate craving completion, take some time to realize that life is about progress, not endpoints. If you relish that incompleteness, you may just find that your four years here can last forever.

Eamon O’Connor is a senior in the College. TAKE IT FROM A SENIOR appears every other Friday in the guide.

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