I've been studying at UT since the fall of 2008. In that time, I have been blessed with many things, but the one thing that stands out as truly spectacular are the people I have met and formed my life around.

Herein lies my last piece of advice to the general student populace of this university that has been the base for the best five and a half years of my life. Surround yourself with the best people you can, and allow them to affect your life.

Humans have a tendency to view those around them as being better than themselves. This is why "50 Shades of Grey" is so popular.

People might say that the series is popular because of the more...provocative scenes, but the reason those scenes hit home so hard is because Anastasia is easy to relate to. She sees her roommate as being smarter, more beautiful, more stylish and in general a better person. Through those perceptions of her "superior" roommate, she works to become more like her roommate. In fact, she is working to become more like the ideal that her roommate represents.

We are all Anastasia, excepting the more...provocative scenes (Editors Note: or not?). We hear our own thoughts, we know when we have failed and we know our own weaknesses. We perceive those around us as being without those flaws, and subconsciously want to become more like them. We implicitly try to become more like those around us. This has the potential to bring us to greatness.

If you are shy, surround yourself by outgoing people. If you struggle with school, surround yourself with people who do very well. If you lack confidence in general, surround yourself with people who you see as the ones who will run this world someday.

We are surrounded by these people at UT. This is a powerhouse institution, just from my own friends I know two people who have already started successful businesses before graduating from UT. I know the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, I know a Rhodes Scholar, I know a girl who has committed her life to cancer research, I know people who will be doctors, lawyers, teachers, writers, musicians, television reporters and producers, politicians, military officers and professional athletes.

Why would you not want to be around these people?

I'm not saying befriend them so you can ride their coattails; I'm suggesting you allow those who already possess greatness to bring the greatness out of yourself.

We all have something special within ourselves to lead a noble life. Sure, we won't all own our own business, or play in the NFL, or write a New York Times best seller, but we do all have the capability of being great parents, great neighbors, great citizens and great friends.

A special life isn't about a title, or the money you make, or the places you visit. A special life is about rising to your potential and leaving a mark on people, institutions, and the world that you feel was ultimately positive.

Surrounding yourself by the people nearby who will unintentionally encourage you to be better will change your life, far more than studying abroad, more than a service trip, more than a car accident.

Take a real look at the people you surround yourself with and ask if they are headed for the things you want out of life. If you view them as being above you, use their example as a ladder to something special, something greater. If the people around you aren't inspiring you, maybe you're inspiring them. That's great and all, but don't be complacent in your success.

As finals come around, commit to spending your time with the people who are in the library and have their sights set high, and leave the people at the bars at the bars. At least until your last final's over.

We're blessed with greatness around every corner; don't squander it by giving your energy to the people who aren't going to raise you higher.

Nate Talbot is a senior in mechanical engineering. He can be reached at ntalbot1@utk.edu.