For this year’s 2012 Graduates, this is that time in your life when you start reflecting on your college experience here at Cal State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB). Whether you’re a transfer, a four-year CSUMB Otter, or a one-semester student, your experience matters. There are two paths all students choose or unknowingly head towards: growth or stagnation.
Just to throw it out there, all our experiences will differ based on gender, ethnicity, race, socioeconomic and marital status, personality, age, major, classes and all those other things that make each student unique. One thing is for sure: we all want our college years to be not just productive but amazing. These years involve growth and development.
So how do you do that? I have two simple truths: people and risk. As human beings, we are wired to connect. We are social and emotional beings that thrive on interpersonal relationships and belonging. Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit group focused on medical care, research and education, argue friendships can impact your health and wellness. These relationships “increase your sense of belonging and purpose,” “boost your happiness,” help “reduce stress,” improve “your self-worth,” can “help you cope with traumas,” and “encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise.”
The idea of risk comes into play if you’re one of those who are shy and have a difficult time in building relationships due to fear of rejection or embarrassment. I truly believe we cannot survive college without connecting with other people. This is the time when you need to start learning how to build and maintain relationships. It will translate into how you function in the workforce. It will translate into your life after all this.
Taking risks is key to other aspects in our lives. You can’t learn everything in the classroom or just by reading books. You can’t. The world is just too big to ignore, and in order to really apply what you’re learning, you need to step outside these buildings and start making connections with the community around you. That means joining clubs, volunteering at the children’s center or local events, stepping into leadership positions, getting a part-time job THAT YOU ENJOY (not just for the money), starting a new Greek chapter, working out, exploring beautiful Monterey, trying new foods, or doing a triathlon (I did). Being in college is a great opportunity to try new things and it’s okay to make mistakes (that aren’t life threatening, of course). Why? Because our society has a saying, “Oh, they’re just young and naive.” And that’s okay! Like the lyrics in the song “We Are Young” by fun.– “We are young, so let’s set the world on fire. We can burn brighter than the sun.”
Not all people are able to utilize college as a transition into the real world. There’s something about the nature of young people and the spirit we all have deep within us that makes us unique and, I don’t want to say it but I will, special.
Some of you may be saying, “You’re crazy, lady. You don’t know my schedule. You don’t know what’s going on in my life now. I can’t do all these fun things.” And you have the right to say that. Life happens and we have to deal with it, but regardless of what stage you’re at in life or what is happening, connecting with people and taking risks are two concepts that apply to everyone. If we want to grow and develop academic, personal and professional skills, you need those two things.
For my Capstone project, I said I was going to do something big; something which has never been done before; something which will benefit the Monterey community I’ve learned to love. I took a huge risk not knowing what the outcome would be. I had to trust and believe the people that I collaborated with will help me reach that goal. The whole process, not just the end result, was astonishing. Out of the four semesters I’ve been here at CSUMB, this was by far the best. The risk and challenges I had to overcome made me a more confident, strong and much happier person.
For those not graduating, what will you do to make your college experience extraordinary? When you’re fifty years old, how will you describe it?