The Boston College experience takes a turn somewhere around junior year.
For the first couple years of BC, the never-ending narrative is “men and women for others.” As a starry-eyed freshman, you’re encouraged by cohorts of OLs, professors, and administrators to “get involved,” so that your BC experience means more than simply going to class and getting a diploma. According to them, joining 4Boston, Pulse, or the myriad of other volunteer organizations is integral to being a student at BC because it is the natural extension of Jesuit ideals taught in the classroom, the logical conclusion of learning Ignatius, Socrates, and Kant. To learn about Jesuit ideals is to go out and do.
This Jesuit curriculum is transformative in every sense of the word. Freshmen leave Perspectives classes with new questions about what it means to be a just person, but then are able to parcel through their questions while they volunteer to rectify injustices all over Boston with 4Boston, or all over America and the world in Appalachia and Arrupe. An entirely new lens through which to see the world is constructed through vigorous classroom discussions, solitary contemplation, and, of course, service. This lens prioritizes justice on an everyday level, pushing BC students to find little ways to make the world around them a slightly better place. It manifests in the strangest of ways, like holding doors open for literally everyone or having grace and patience for a frustrating roommate. Make no mistake about it, this is Jesuit ideals in action, the product of the BC experience that pushes its undergraduates to be more than just selfish college students. As has been noted ad nauseum, the BC experience isn’t perfect, but thought-provoking classes and extracurricular service truly do have an impact.
The BC experience affects more than just the small day-to-day moments, though, and often transforms what students want to do for the rest of their lives. Jesuit ideals run deeper than door holding. At their core, they call for a radical reconsideration of one’s whole lifestyle to ensure that injustice has no place in relationships, consumption, or career choices.
But around junior year, all of these Jesuit ideals get cast aside as internship frenzy sets in—the psychotic scramble to find a temporary position that will pave the way for a (hopefully) lucrative career. Previous concerns about justice and ethics are discarded as everyone desperately tries to get hired by any firm possible. BC students march in droves to investment banks and consulting firms, the likes of which would make Ignatius queasy with their morally dubious business practices and complicity in market manipulation that caused the last economic crash (and will likely cause the next one too).
I recognize that these firms often pay the highest salaries, and are the best choices financially for students post-graduation, especially with the mountains of student debt many of us have to saddle. My qualm isn’t with the choice of individual students, but rather with the culture that’s created surrounding internships and careers in general. Something is lost junior and senior year at BC between all of the recruitment reps, career fairs, LinkedIn headshots, and networking meet-and-greets. There’s a tangible apathy that begins to pervade the student body in regards to service and social justice, and “men and women for others” becomes “men and women for themselves.” BC’s incessant focus on personal enrichment through the internship race cheapens all of the lessons before about service of humanity as a whole, and makes experiences like 4Boston and Appa simply feel like stepping-stones to a future career.
It’s tough because I recognize the pragmatic necessity of career fairs of wealthy corporations eager to hire promising young undergrads. Often, they are the only jobs available to us. Or, the only good-paying jobs, I should say. Maybe I’m being too naïve expecting BC to better promote careers that make the world a better place, and don’t just seek profits at the expense of people. The reality is that there isn’t a whole lot of money in our economy for altruism. But, for some reason, I still cling to those Ignatian, Socratic, and Kantian ideals I was taught freshman and sophomore year about justice and equality, those ideals that opened up my worldview and encouraged me to serve the world in whatever capacity I could. I just feel lost when look out into the ”real world” and try to imagine how I’ll live them out there.
Featured Image by Meg Dolan / Heights Editor