People say that college is the best four years of your life, and the truth is, college is whatever you make it. You’ve been through trials, heartbreak, and wonderful experiences to get here. Now you are situated in a unique position. You are surrounded by people whose minds are ready to share and absorb new perspectives; you are surrounded by intellectually stimulating conversations, academia, professional opportunities, and a brand new community. Now you have two options: Dive in or hide away.
Diving into new experiences could be intimidating, but I can promise you it is worth it. Sometimes all that we need to be bold and dive in is a little bit of re-framing our way of thinking about intimidating experiences.
Here are some tips to help motivate yourself to make the most of your experience:
- Stay curious– We have so much access to new ideas and new experiences that it’s sometimes natural for us to want to reject it. I want to challenge you to take a moment to consider a new perspective, and to decide whether you agree with it or not later. This way, you will allow yourself to grow and develop a deeper understanding of your own beliefs, as well as the beliefs of others.
- Get past the first 15 seconds– Going to a new club meeting or activity where you don’t know anyone can be nerve-wracking. It’s easy to decide to avoid it and stay in your comfort zone instead, but what’s the fun in that? When I was a first-year student, I wanted to try out new clubs and organizations on campus, but I didn’t know anyone and felt super nervous to attend the events alone. Something that helped me was to remind myself that I just needed to get through the first 15 seconds of the experience. The hardest part of something new is forcing yourself to take the leap, but once you do, all you have to do is just ride it out and see what happens. For instance, if there is a student organization that you want to join, and you are going to an event alone, the hardest part is often just getting yourself through the doors, and saying “hello” to a new person. Once you get past that moment, you start to see that there are other people there who feel the same way as you do, and the event doesn’t feel so intimidating anymore.
- Think of each experience as a story that you can tell later– When you put yourself out there and dive into new experiences, sometimes they won’t turn out the way you expected them to — and that is okay. Don’t get me wrong, it is still important to trust your instincts and remind yourself that if you do feel uncomfortable for any reason, you have every right to get yourself out of the situation. But if you find yourself in a moment that is just not what you were expecting it to be, or just kind of awkward, don’t turn that tension inward by blaming yourself. Instead, just let yourself be entertained by the moment, and later tell the story to someone you know well and laugh about it.
- You are not committed to something just because you tried it- You think you may be interested in rock climbing, but you’re not sure. You start to doubt yourself, you think, “well, I’ve never been interested in it before, it’s not who I am, I don’t belong there.” But what’s the harm in trying it? When you look back on your college experience, you probably will not regret that time, sophomore year when you joined rock climbing club for two weeks and decided that you didn’t enjoy the early mornings so you quit. Sometimes you get an urge to try out something new. Maybe you’ll love it, maybe you’ll get bored of it after a month. Either way, you gained value from the experience. Every time you try out a new club, you become familiar with new faces that you can smile at on your walk to class. You gain a fun fact to share at work events. You gain a stepping stone that will guide you closer to the knowledge of what you enjoy and value, and knowing what you don’t.
- Be creative– CSU has so many resources available to you, and by taking the time to learn about them, you can find creative ways to set yourself up with some amazing opportunities. For instance, when I was a first-year student, I was very interested in studying psychology. I decided that I didn’t want to major in it, because I wasn’t necessarily interested in a career in Psychology. CSU doesn’t have a minor in Psychology, so I decided that I would get involved in the department through speaking with my professor. My second year at CSU, I was able to work in her research lab and become a teaching assistant for her Psych 100 class, which gave me the opportunity to continue learning and teaching others about Psychology, without taking the traditional pathway of declaring it as a major.
- Enjoy each moment for what it is– Sometimes you try something new and sometimes it doesn’t work out. Maybe you aren’t hired for a job you were really excited to apply for, or maybe you get rejected from a performance that you auditioned for. When these moments happen, it is easy to blame yourself and become discouraged. Instead, try to view these moments as just being a small piece in a larger puzzle. You’re still building your skillset. Ask for constructive feedback when you can, so you know what you can do to improve. Remember that life isn’t happening to you, it’s happening for you. Sometimes what you want in the moment is not going to work out simply because you need to leave room for something even better. Just remember your value, and try not to take rejections personally. Keep learning from them, working on them, and stay open to new opportunities, because some of the best experiences in life show up in disguise.
As I think back to my first year of college, it amazes me to reflect on how different I was. There were times when my attempts to get involved and experience new things resulted in awkward moments, and some moments that I wouldn’t repeat, but looking back on my college experience, I have no regrets. The truth is, I needed each and every one of those moments in order to become the person that I am now. They opened my mind, they gave me funny stories to share, and taught me lessons that will last a lifetime.