Possibly the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far in college is to push my boundaries and explore new opportunities. After all, college is the perfect time to discover yourself! While my first semester, I was more reserved and hesitant to try new things, I decided to make a change for my spring semester. Here are a few ways I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone:
1. Try new classes
Throughout high school, I generally tended to stay away from history and literature classes because I was not a fan of the humanities. I was much better and interested in math and science, so I filled up my schedule with mostly STEM-related classes. Coming into college, I was set on taking classes related to my neuroscience major and pre-med. The thought of having a schedule only filled with classes I wanted was so exciting.
Only biology and genetics and no Spanish and Language Arts and history?!?!
It was like a dream come true. Only I soon realized it wasn’t the best thing in the world. I missed the balance of STEM and humanities classes that I’d always had in high school and my schedule felt empty. So, I decided to explore outside my interests and take a history class, culture class, and several other humanities courses. And, I’m so glad that I did. I think it’s fantastic that Rutgers and most colleges have core requirements that make you take a few courses in all subject areas. Otherwise, we’d all just stick to our majors and miss the point of a liberal arts education.
While I still am not a fan of the humanities, I really appreciate the skills I got to take away from the courses I enrolled in. It’s a nice break from the analytical and abstract science classes I take. It has given me critical thinking skills and helped me form informed perspectives on current political and world issues.
2. Join new clubs.
In high school, I wasn’t much of an “extracurricular” person. Sure, I’d participated in a few clubs, but academics was always my main priority. I wanted to change that in college. The college admission process really opened my eyes because I realized that anyone can have a 4.0 GPA and a 1600 on the SAT. What really matters are your extracurriculars and your unique experiences that set you apart from the rest.
I was excited to get involved on campus, but as a commuter, I wasn’t quite sure how to. I didn’t know if I had the time commitment, I didn’t know if I would be able to socialize well, and I didn’t know if I had the guts to join clubs that I had no prior experience in. After a complete year in college, I can honestly say that all of that is irrelevant as long as you are willing to try something new.
One by one, I started looking up organizations online, reaching out to clubs, and joining organizations. Something that I’d always wanted to do was write and have people actually read my writing, but I was scared to put myself out there. But I finally decided to let go of that fear and I joined two blogs my freshman year. The experience has been so rewarding. I also joined the Rutgers Commuter Student Association and it was the best decision I made so far! It’s given me a sense of community and family in a big school like Rutgers.
3. Look for leadership opportunities.
College is a great place to get a feel for the real world. There are so many opportunities available to help you gather all the skills you need to succeed, so don’t be afraid to take them!
This past semester, I would always see opportunities to become part of the E-Board for student organizations. At first, I’d think to myself: “This would look great on my resume!” But then I’d back down because I’d think I didn’t have enough experience or ability to apply for such positions. If there is anything I’ve learned so far, it is that you never know what will and can happen.
As Nike would say, JUST DO IT! Even if you don’t get the position, it’s still a great experience applying and interviewing. It refines your writing and public speaking skills. Even though I didn’t get the first few positions I had applied for, I wasn’t disappointed. I just kept going. Soon enough, opportunities started lining up, and I found myself with five leadership positions just my first year here!
4. Make new friends.
This one is a little personal for me and not everyone might be able to relate. As an introvert and a commuter, I have a hard time making and maintaining new friends on campus. During my first semester, I found myself alone a lot of the time and relying on my high school friends. I came very close to accepting the fact that I’d be alone all of college and have no luck with friends.
But, then something changed. I decided I didn’t want to have that mentality anymore. I wasn’t having any luck because I wasn’t trying at all to meet new people. I had to remember that everyone in some way was struggling and lonely. I had to put myself out there. As soon as I started feeling positive and put a smile on, good things started happening. I started talking to more people, hanging out, going to more events, and letting go of only sticking to my high school friends.
Even though college doesn’t really allow for having constant friends, it’s still great for enjoying the moment with those that are around you and having good conversations. The more I joined clubs and got involved, the more people I got to know.
Freshman year was just the beginning. It was the first step outside my comfort zone in a long flight of stairs of unexplored terrains. I’m so excited about my next three years here at Rutgers and I’m eagerly anticipating what the future holds. College can be the best four years of your life if you are open to letting yourself loose!