Regardless of year, it is never too late to get involved in University activities
Most of us entered the University as overanxious, enthusiastic first years ready to dive into college life and grab the futures we had been dreaming of since we were kids. We were empowered and ready to take on the world. Then we realized at some point during that first chaotic year that college can be confusing, scary, overwhelming and intimidating. We are no longer the student body presidents, team captains or valedictorians we were growing up — no longer the big fish in a small pond. We get to college, and all of a sudden we don’t know who we are or what we’ve accomplished in our short lives. We’re no longer buoyed by our high school accolades. Instead, we find ourselves just hoping to get through the day without getting lost, missing a class, forgetting an assignment or failing a midterm. It’s easy, in the grind of first year, to lose sight of the impulse to be involved — to forget about the extracurricular activities that enriched our lives before we got here.
I say this from experience; I was that first year. I anxiously attended the Activities Fair the first weekend of school. I was excited to find my niche at this large university, though admittedly I was a little confused as to what exactly I wanted to accomplish at the University. My whole life had been devoted to sports. Thanks to a knee injury my senior year, that was out of the question. I remember feeling totally panicked as I walked through the crowds of upperclassmen advertising their clubs and asking me to join. I signed up for a few random clubs and then left the scene as fast as I could. I never attended any of the meetings for the clubs though; honestly, I think I still get emails from some of them. I quickly grew homesick and found myself burdened with idle time outside of studying for classes. It was not until I came home for Thanksgiving that I realized why I felt so apathetic.
I grew up in a small town with a strong sense of community. Everyone knew everyone. When I saw parents of my high school friends over break, they were quick to ask me how I was enjoying the University. Without hesitation, I always said, “I love it!” assuring them that I remained the enthusiastic achiever I’d always been. But after some reflection I came to questions like these: “Why do I like the University? What have I done at the University that I couldn’t do at another university?” Frankly, I came up with nothing. I had not made the University my university.
So, first years, second years, and even third years: It is your time. Get involved. Find your role to play at the University. Unlike high school, it’s not about compiling a laundry list of activities and leadership positions to put on our résumés; it’s about finding a few things that define us during our short time at this magical place nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Take the next few months to think about what is important to you. Reflect. What excites you? Volunteer services? Diversity? Politics? Environmental concerns? Athletics? Come January, it will be your moment, your fresh start, your time to get involved.
Start small. Attend a couple information sessions for some clubs that interest you, or go to Madison House one afternoon and read up on the different and all-encompassing programs they have to offer. There are people at the University who want to help; they want you to get involved, regardless of organization. You live in an environment where exploration, learning and discovery are valued above almost anything else. Embrace what the University has to offer and get ready to put your stamp on your University.
Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz said, “Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” So get ready, get set, go! It’s your time to shine and take the stage!”
Katelyn Milam is a Fourth-year Trustee.