By Maia Almeida
“Get involved.” If you recently went through your first-year or transfer orientation, this is something you heard constantly.
But what does this mean?
It definitely looks different for each student – but here is what it meant for me.
Student leadership was always something I wanted to push myself to do, because in high school, I was very late in the game to “get involved.”
I had my heart set on being a resident assistant, but when I received an email saying I was an alternate choice, I panic-applied to every other leadership position.
By the end of my freshman year, I had applied to be a resident assistant, peer mentor, Wet Feet Retreat leader, and orientation leader (OL).
I ended up only getting a “congratulations” email for the role of orientation leader – which to be honest, I barely knew what it entailed.
Long story short, it was possibly the best decision I made during my college career.
Because of my role as an OL, I went on to be the senior OL the next year. In this role, I helped interview prospective OLs and create a training program for the leaders in order to prepare them for orientation days.
Along with the staff of New Student and Family Programs, I facilitated a team of diverse, open- minded, helpful, brilliant leaders to welcome incoming students and their families.
Throughout my time as an orientation leader, I gained knowledge about myself and the University, and made lifelong friends and connections.
I then went on to be a part of Alternative Spring Break. We traveled to D.C. to help people in homeless situations. During this experience, I made more connections with staff and my fellow students.
I joined women’s rugby – I had no idea what I was doing initially – but I developed strong connections with my coach, trainers, and the women on my team.
I was Hall Council President my junior year, during which I grew closer to residence life staff and learned more about event planning.
I finally became a peer mentor, and then I had the opportunity to see what happens after orientation with students.
As a peer mentor, I worked alongside a faculty advisor to help make the transition to college easier for a group of first-year students.
The point is, we shouldn’t just be saying, “Get involved.” This is such a blanket statement about what you really need to do during your time in college.
What we should be saying is, “Make connections.”
Whether it be working at a job on campus, serving in a leadership role, playing a sport, or joining an organization – make those connections.
Because of my relationship with almost all of the staff in student affairs, I’m comfortable asking anyone a question if I have one – without fear of being judged.
I know firsthand it is scary to step outside your comfort zone, but it is essential in order to make connections.
Stepping outside your comfort zone can also look different for each student. Whether it is talking to a neighbor in your residence hall or showing up at an event – meet other people.
Meeting other people and making connections may be more important than what you are learning in your classes.
Human interaction and meeting people with different points of view and experiences is how you learn and become more independent as a person.
It’s scary, honestly. But not having a support system in your environment throughout your college career is even scarier.
From the terrified freshman I was to becoming a student leader, a lot has changed during the last four years. None of this change would have happened if I didn’t step out of my comfort zone and apply to those positions in the first place.
Go talk to people, join organizations, and make connections!
You never know where they will lead you.