Prashant Dhanraj

Next up for a Senior Wisdom is Prashant Dhanraj, who self-describes as “that cute Indian guy” and has some potentially dark thoughts about cheese.

Name, Hometown, School, Major: Prashant Dhanraj, Calgary, Canada, SEAS, Mechanical Engineering

Claim to fame: That cute Indian guy?

Where are you going? Hopefully to Germany to study automotive engineering! I haven’t really ironed out my career ambitions yet, so for now I’m sticking with my childhood dream of eventually becoming a Formula 1 race engineer (basically achieving rocket scientist-status for car nuts).

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2018?

1. I believe that the most valuable thing you can get from your Columbia education is the chance to meet the amazing people here. Making relationships with these superstars is one of the best uses of your tuition for sure. There are so many people I’ve met here who are profoundly inspiring and who have made me grow and develop more so in four years than ever before. Never have I met more stellar and multi-talented people before, from all walks of life (and from all schools!). Going to an Ivy League school may not mean that all your professors and all the resources are exceptional, but it does certainly mean that your peers will be astonishingly so.

2. My second piece of advice continues from the first – make sure to visit your friends! It is definitely one of the cheapest and most authentic ways to see the world. In my four years at Columbia, I’ve been blessed enough to visit my friends in California, Canada, Germany, Dubai, and New Jersey (no matter how much I love to join in with the NJ haters now and again, I owe the entirety of four wonderful Thanksgiving experiences to friends from this great state; plus, Alpine is DOPE).

3. Lastly, I truly learned the value of proper time management at Columbia. In high school I did relatively well academically, but only after coming here and being faced with the sheer intensity of a SEAS workload did I realize that my high school work habits were woefully inadequate. I had to fix them or I simply would not survive at this school. I used to chase perfection in everything, which was, quite plainly, a waste of time. Apply the 80/20 rule to your life! It is vital to know when to quit, since most of the time, 80 percent of the work output is derived from just 20 percent of your work input. Beyond that, every hour you put in improves the final product only incrementally. Don’t waste 4 hours to take your grade from a 90 to a 93! It’s usually just not worth it.

Back in my day…

Whining about how terrible the dining halls were was actually justified. (NO, you aren’t allowed to complain about them now, you incredibly lucky freshmen)

P.S. I am a proud (lazy) subscriber of the meal plan for all four years of college.

Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer: My existence is justified because I want it to be. (Otherwise I have to admit to myself that it really isn’t justified at all, which is no fun)

Write your most memorable note from the field: I experienced one of the scariest nights of my life after foolishly chugging a ridiculous amount of tequila straight from the bottle. As you might expect, I got absurdly messed up and blacked out completely. By the time the alcohol hit me however, I had already decided to go to Barcelona bar in midtown (themed shots!) with my friends. So, when I blacked out, I was dangerously far from home.

Then, after who knows how long, my memory slowly began to return. It was still nighttime, and I found myself walking block after block in some totally unfamiliar place, all by myself. All I remember for some time is just a feeling of never-ending panic. I kept making rights and lefts as I walked, hoping to see a familiar landmark around the corner but never getting anywhere.

Finally, as I continued to sober up, I gained the sense to check the street signs to figure out where I actually was – I was shocked to find that I was deep uptown, way up in the late 100’s. Even after figuring this out, I didn’t understand for a bit longer that there was no way Columbia was around the corner and that walking home was impossible. Ultimately, after another interminable period of time, I had gathered myself enough to flag a gypsy cab and ask to go to Columbia.

In the end, I made it back safely at around 5 AM or so, unscathed and with all my possessions still with me. I still have absolutely no idea what happened to me while my memory was gone; I don’t know how I left my friends, I don’t know how I got myself so far north, and I don’t know what I did while I was up there. I was unbelievably lucky and things could have gone horrifically worse, and I am very thankful my stupidity didn’t come at a steeper price. Freshmen, don’t chug tequila!

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? Definitely oral sex. Cheese is one of the few things in life that will always unconditionally love you back.

One thing to do before graduating: Go back to Barcelona bar! As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t actually been there yet.

Any regrets? I definitely regret not going to more classes, as well as not staying awake for more classes that I actually made it to. I could have gotten a lot more out of Columbia if I just didn’t skip so freely. It would also have helped if I had actually read everything that I was supposed to (maybe one day I’ll read the CC books in the box under my bed…). Finally, I wish that my ex-fraternity, SAE, had made it past its infancy and hadn’t been crushed by Columbia so soon. We would have been great!