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Learning comes best from outside the classroom

On Sunday night, I talked with my grandpa about a recent purchase he made. It was just one of many conversations we have every week, but usually it’s one-sided. He loves to talk about any information he’s gathered, way more than I ever will. He can talk about Cassidy and Gallagher’s architectural history in Albany and especially Robin Oliveira’s book “My Name is Mary Sutter.”

He also holds tight to the memories we’ve shared. He remembers the time he birdied in Dorset, Vermont. I filmed his entire golf outing and instead of filming his shining moment, I filmed a monarch butterfly floating by the other hole.

In short, my grandpa is a walking encyclopedia.

One of my goals when I came to UB was to replicate his love for archiving every waking moment in life.

My goals started on the stairwell in Wilkeson Quadrangle. My eyes filled with tears as I got the results of my first exam: an F. I called my mom, emotional as ever, and told her college might not be for me. But she stopped me in my tracks and said you can always improve on your next attempt.

Since, I haven’t received anything less than a B- in a class. This will probably change this semester but hey, it’s my last year.

I’ve had plenty of “moments” like the stairwell day: taking late-night walks around Ellicott to question every decision I’ve ever made or nearly busting my head open from crashing my bike on a late Friday night.

It happens.

Some people say you should move on, but they’re wrong. Civically engaging with your past is the greatest thing you can do. The strongest growth comes from sharing your faults and pains with friends.

Some of my greatest pals are the ones who have helped me in this realm. Jared, Gabe, Toussaint, the funniest and greatest roommates ever. Gabi and Jaspreet, a.k.a. the Conch Crew; the days we spend sharing our blunders and ridiculous moments over macchiatos is vital to me.

Everyone from Porter Quad, floor three; I’m just a byproduct of the love we shared during late night outings or our spontaneous Uno games. It takes a team to build a boy up, and I’m nowhere without the number of catalysts to my happiness.

This happiness is still bleak in comparison to last year at this time.

Since the departure of the greatest professor UB will ever know, Dr. Kushal K. Bhardwaj, there’s a serious, noticeable gap in critical thinking and – at the same time – jubilance on Tuesday nights. The time, care and compassion that Dr. B brought to the classroom is something every professor here should harness.

Most professors get paid nearly six figures to teach off a script or to have tedious, centrist dialogue that they deem “difficult, interesting conversations.”

But Dr. B’s classes were a true learning laboratory, where life lessons are harvested – not things you’ll forget after 15 weeks. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be writing for this paper.

As for others, Ken, thank you for telling me my opinions on music would be good in print. You got me a cover story with ARTSYand encouraged me to join The Spectrum.

And through me came my brother Brenton, the departing senior arts editor.

Mom, Liam, Nannie and everyone close to you loves you dearly and is so proud of everything you’ve done here. You’ve helped make a paper at a STEM-centric university a creative factory and outlet for touring artists in Buffalo.

To the graduating class, David, you may need to start burning the midnight oil if you want to beat me in Smash Bros. Pierce, you’re probably happy you don’t have to deal with my confusing ideas for graphics. Dan P., I’m so proud of everything you’ve done here and I sincerely hope you become the Panthers’ beat writer.

Allison, I’ll never forget our “two-person budget meetings” every Sunday. Haruka, you’ve been amazing ever since I knighted you “the assistant assistant features editor.” Sarah, I’ll miss trying to swerve around in my chair to talk to you from the other side of the office. Dan and Emma, I’ll miss our jazz renditions of Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated.”

To Wanly, you have blossomed into one of the most superb writers I have ever worked with and despite what I say, I would never fire you. Getting to know you has single handedly swung my semester into a positive direction and I’ll miss you a ton. Erik, you have been nothing but great help this semester. Our time together is far from over and next year, we’ll finally be the two features editors, minus Wanly.

Overall, what I’ve learned from writing for this powerhouse is to never be satisfied with the answers you’re given, there’s always room for more inquiries.

When I talked to my grandpa on Sunday, he said the same thing. He complained about his purchase and the customer service agent said he was the first person who ever wanted answers about the product.

“From asking questions, you learn something,” my grandpa replied.

I couldn’t agree more.

Benjamin Blanchet is the senior features editor and can be reached at and @BenjaminUBSpec


 Benjamin Blanchet is a graduate student and student journalist based in Buffalo, New York. Aside from The Spectrum, Blanchet has appeared in Brooklyn’s ARTSY Magazine and New York’s RESPECT. Magazine.