Four semesters ago I began my collegiate journey at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. I was fresh, excited and incredibly naïve. At the time, I figured college would be everything high school was not. I believed the missing pieces to the puzzle -- the pieces I didn't have in high school -- would find me and naturally fall in place once I began living on a college campus.
I was wrong.
My first semester at UMBC was tough. My anxiety was constantly through the roof and I was consistently unsure whether or not the school was for me.
There was one night in particular where I called my parents and told them I was transferring to College Park the next semester. They told me to give it more time, and provided me tons of other valuable advice which, at the time, I didn't recognize as such.
I felt isolated and detached. Despite those feelings, I was actively attempting to make new friends and become increasingly involved on campus. I joined the school paper, became a first year ambassador, and struck up conversations with anyone and everyone.
After completing two years of school now, I can definitively say those decisions paid off.
Joining the school paper? Best decision I've made in college.
I've always been an avid reader and writer, but regrettably opted not to contribute to my high school paper. I'm forever grateful I didn't repeat that err in judgment. For almost two years now I have written for the news section, and have interviewed and met more incredible and interesting people than I could have ever hoped to cross paths with. I've also made life long friends with some of my coworkers; many of whom have been instrumental in helping me develop as a journalist. For now, anyways, I plan on making it my career.
First Year Ambassador?
The First Year Ambassador program at UMBC is basically a segue to getting freshman students more involved with the university's student government association. The person who ran the program, a junior at the time, was one of the first people on campus I was able to honestly call my friend. He made the campus feel like home. I later went on to campaign for him twice when he ran for SGA President. He narrowly lost the first go round, but won the second time. The announcement of the election results was incredible and I vividly remember how excited I was for him. Interestingly enough, one of my happiest moments at college had nothing to do with a success of my own.
Striking up conversations with anyone and everyone?
I've always been fascinated by politics, so naturally I took Poli 100 during my first semester. I sat next to this girl who seemed approachable enough. In the beginning, we occasionally talked to each other. By the end, we were best friends. We both ended up majoring in political science and have taken virtually all of our major's courses together. College can, at times, feel like an endless marathon. She has kept me motivated and reminded me there actually is a finish line.
I met another close friend of mine in an unusual way. We were in line at a Mexican "restaurant" on campus. A student walked by us with a giant cylinder strapped to his back. I turned around to her and asked, "What the heck is that? It looks like the thing they kept the Declaration of Independence in during the movie National Treasure." She laughed and told me it was what artists use to store their posters and paintings. We got to talking, exchanged numbers, and the rest is history.
I didn't tell those stories because I want you to know more about me. I told them because I think it's important to understand two things:
1) You have to put yourself out on the court to score a basket. That's cheesy, but I love sports so you're just going to have to deal with it. Seriously though, attend info sessions, join clubs and organizations even if you are unsure whether you'll enjoy them, and please talk to people. Friends are often made in the most unusual ways...
2) The best things in life take time. I didn't think anything was going right for me my first semester. But in hindsight, everything positive in my life right now stemmed from the actions I took in my first semester. Often times there is a delay between hard work and the reward. Stay patient and positive.
Hopefully someone out there might read this and benefit in some way from my experiences. But I'd also like to thank all my friends and family who have played a role in making those memories happen. It's been a heck of a ride so far, and I can't wait to see what the second half has in store.