Senior Wisdom: Sophie Wilkowske

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A cheese philosopher

Meet Sophie. She’s a stellar midwestern gal who’s about to make the leap across the pond. Read on for her wise words of wise wisdom. 

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Sophie Wilkowske; CC; History; Duluth, Minnesota

Claim to fame: Winning prizes for being nerdy; trying to act like a cynic and an ingenue at the same time.

Where are you going? To the Midwest for a few weeks, then New York for the summer, then to England to study at Cambridge next year.

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2021?
1) Cultivate a sense of irony that will let you interact realistically with the world while preserving your capacity to idealize and dream. It’s fine and healthy and human to have different selves for different situations; try to leave it an open question which one is the “real” you.
2) Learn from your elders and betters. At the same time, maintain a standpoint that lets you ask questions.
3) Apply to jobs and internships and scholarships and schools that you think you’re way underqualified for—you’re probably not. Raise your hand in class. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.”

“Back in my day…” Back in my day everything was perfect! Nobody believed in the dangerous power of a utopian mythical past!

Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer: None of us need to justify our existence, at Columbia or on Earth or anywhere in between.

What was your favorite class at Columbia? Every single history class I’ve ever taken, and some true gems in English and Russian. Top prize goes to Telling About the South, taught by Barbara Fields and taken with a delightful seminar cohort.

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? What does it really mean to give up cheese? If I gave up eating cheese, could my friend eat my cheese? Could I watch other people eat cheese together? Could I eat bread while thinking about eating cheese? I hope you give these questions some consideration the next time you eat… cheese. As for my answer: I’d give up cheese. Sorry mom and dad and Wisconsin!

One thing to do before graduating: Change your mind about something serious, and pay attention while it happens—in my experience, the most valuable and elusive process there is.

Any regrets? Yeah, of course! But also lots of moments of joy and comfort and marveling. It balances out.

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  1. Anonymous

    One of the kindest and most intelligent people I ever knew at Columbia. Congratulations.

  2. hubada  

    one of the best cheese answers I've ever read

  3. shipwrecked  

    "Irony may be defined as the ability to negotiate the gap between the real and the ideal without doing violence to either."

  4. (R)W.B.  

    disappointed. wut rough beast its hour come round at last/slouches towards earnestness, to be bwog

  5. Joe Milholland  

    Sophie! You're the coolest, and I'm super-impressed with all the history knowledge you handle with style.

  6. James Valentini  

    make us proud at Cambridge! I will fondly remember all the cheese plates we shared. you are one of the students that I actually like

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