Last year when I wrote a column for this same issue, I provided incoming first years with practical advice on the best way to sign up for courses. And while I still think that the class sign up process is unnecessarily difficult and convoluted, going into my fourth year has provided me with a different perspective of the kind of advice I think would be the most useful — use college to challenge yourself and your worldview.
As the new semester begins, new students will soon begin choosing what courses and extracurriculars they want to engage in. In this, like most areas of life, we will likely begin to gravitate toward the things that most conform with our interests and views. While there is nothing wrong with doing this, it is easy to limit ourselves to our comfort zones. I urge new students not to fall into this trap. Young adulthood is a time to explore and challenge yourself, and there is no other place better than a university to do so.
One easy way to achieve this goal is to take a class outside of your area of interest. While the different options for fulfilling requirements in the College attempt to encourage students to take a diverse course load, it is still relatively easy to intentionally structure your academic schedule to your ideal comfort level. To be clear, I am not suggesting that humanities majors take Calculus III, but instead to take a chance on that random class in a department they have never heard of. For example, when I was a first-year I took a course that I did not realize was cross-listed as an architecture class. When I showed up on the first day, there were floor plans projected on the screen, and I was completely lost. At that moment, I could have dropped the class because it was so far outside of my comfort zone, but thankfully I stuck with it and learned a great deal about a completely foreign topic.
Students should challenge themselves beyond the classroom as well, especially considering extracurricular clubs are where students create most of their college relationships. In my experience, joining these groups has been incredibly rewarding, but many clubs — especially political organizations — can often become an echo-chamber, where we only associate with people who are like us. Given that college is full of different people and groups, students should be taking advantage of it. I have been to countless lectures and meetings of groups whose political views I do not agree with, and I count these as some of my most rewarding experiences.
This same principle extends to cultural events as well — take advantage of the diversity of college and attempt to learn something about different communities. Meet people who are different than you — you will probably never experience anything like the diversity of cultures and people that the University provides again.
This is unfortunately advice that many Americans never heed. As a society, the U.S. is highly segregated by political party, race and income. While these dynamics don’t seem likely to change anytime soon, we as students possess the capacity to shift these dynamics marginally through our own individual actions.
So as the new semester begins, keep these goals in mind. Spend a little bit more time walking around the club fair and looking through Lou’s List. Keep an eye on the events happening around Grounds on Facebook and make an effort to actually go to them. Four years go by in a flash, and I guarantee what you will regret are the things you never did. It is always easier to not do something than to do it, but I urge you to resist doing what feels comfortable. You will become a more open minded and experienced person because of it, which ultimately is what college should be all about.
Jacob Asch is the Executive Editor for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.