When I entered college, I had no idea what to expect. I am a first-generation high school graduate, and now, a college graduate as well. No one in my family could give me tips, as they had no idea what my school would really be like. Given my situation, I felt it was best to stay open to new ideas, experiences, and interests.
I had originally received several scholarships to attend university in the Civil Engineering field. But the feeling of being locked into one major from the jump really rubbed me the wrong way, so I decided not to go to either of those schools – I ended up choosing a small liberal arts college instead.
There, surrounded by students who had gone to elite private schools, traveled the world, and done otherwise amazing things by the age of 20, I felt intimidated at first. Like many students, I felt like an “outsider,” far-removed from the culture of academia. My first year, I neglected the importance of meeting professors and other professionals, which I spent time making up for later in my undergraduate career. No matter how different your background, or unique your academic interests, I can’t stress this enough: find a support system.
Though college is about academics first and foremost, there is an unspoken need to network as well. The people you meet can ultimately point you in the right direction, and they can be found anywhere – staff, professors, etc. It takes little real effort to maintain a good relationship with your professors, who will end up writing your recommendations, directing you to job opportunities, and so much more. This begins from your first semester in the classroom.
Now, with regards to your peers: every individual at college is unique in their own way, and building relationships not only applies to your professors, but your peers as well. It is a place to meet people that will challenge you – your beliefs, biases, and opinions. Having lived my whole life in Seattle, Washington, it was a huge culture shock for me to end up in North Carolina, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I learned a lot about the various places students came from, and most importantly, this allowed me to really introspect and learn about myself as well – things ranging from what study habits work best, or what my academic interests really are, to more abstract things, such as why I think the way I do, and what I felt was my “vocation.”
Yeah, admittedly, this is all a little cliché – I’m basically saying: “college is what you make of it.” But it’s true. Why not keep an open mind and try new things? Who are you to rob an opportunity from yourself? Most of our students here at Hermiona Education are from outside the U.S., so coming here to study will be a new experience. You will never have 4 years of your life like undergrad again, so why not meet new people and learn from them? There is no better way of growing as a person, and as an academic.