The Powers of Reflection

Congratulations! You have successfully made it to your second semester here at Ohio State. And now that syllabus week is over, the work begins.

I had a rough first semester at OSU. I didn’t have many friends, I didn’t want to admit to my parents that I was having a hard time, and I didn’t do well in classes. I ended up skipping classes to watch Netflix and sleep in and rarely left my residence hall. I ate a ton, did no homework and didn’t study and I ended up coming home for winter break 20 pounds heavier with a terrible GPA. Luckily, I had wonderful parents who, although disappointed, did their best to help me move forward instead of dwelling on the past. We spent a lot of time that winter break trying to figure out what went wrong and how to help me get back on track; and through that experience I learned how amazingly powerful reflection could be. I went into my second semester with a new outlook and ended it with a 3.5 semester GPA.

You have all more or less successfully completed a full semester at OSU and believe it or not you are now a veteran! You now have a pretty good idea of the in’s and out’s of college so why not put some of that knowledge to use? You will do so much better this semester if you take the time and space to reflect on what went right and what went wrong.

I have a little reflection activity (it takes about 30 minutes) that I want to share with you. I’ve started, weekly, going out by myself to eat or putting on some background music and lighting a candle in my room and just thinking. Below I’ve written out a way that you can engage in a similar activity that helps with mindfulness and goal-setting.

Reflection Activity:

Think back to the first days on the Ohio State campus: moving into the dorm rooms, meeting new faces, your parents moving your stuff into your dorm room. Remember how your room looked when you first stepped in. And how it looked when you were done with it. Remember saying goodbye to your parents, and spending the night with your new friends and roommates.

Fast forward through Welcome Week: all of the activities, the whirlwind of people, the cheers, the crowds, getting used to campus.

Now it’s the first days of classes: remember rushing to find your first class, pulling out the Maps app on your phone to find Arps Hall. Remember returning to your room at the end of the day exhausted but satisfied because at least you now know where your classes are.

Keep going fast-forwarding through your semester, letting your mind snag on the important parts, dwell on them a little before moving on. Try writing some of those moments down to remember them. Remember the good things and the bad things. Continue until you finally get to winter break. Imagine all of the things that went right last semester. What did you do well? When was your first success? How can you keep that up this semester? Write this stuff down.

What went wrong? What did you improve? What could you have done better in? What do you need to change? What can you do to improve? Write. It. Down.

Now look and think about everything you just wrote and thought about. What goals do you have for this semester that could hit on those points you just wrote down? Write those down and put them on your phone or hang them in your room.

Those are your goals for this semester.

Join the PL Family!

Each year we hire an amazing team of Peer Leaders and we would love for you to consider applying to be a part of the family!

Check out this awesome video made by our own PL Logan Woodyard (lovingly known as PLogan) which highlights a lot of the memories that the FYE Peer Leaders have created this year.

Interested in applying? Applications are due January 31st! 

Still not sure?

Attend an information session and learn more about being a Peer Leader:

Thursday, Jan. 18
4-7 p.m.
Ohio Union, Spring Involvement Fair

Monday, Jan. 22
3 p.m.
Student Academic Services Building, Room 281

Tuesday, Jan. 23
12 p.m.
Ohio Union, Multicultural Center Alonso Family Room

 

Fresh Starts and New Beginnings.

New year, new me. Right?

Okay okay, so maybe this saying is overused and more of a joke at this point, but let’s talk about what it really means. It is so easy for people turn their noses to the idea of a new year’s resolution and regard it as a non-committal way of making yourself feel better without actually changing anything. I’m sure you have seen the “new year, new me” jokes on twitter.

But what is so wrong with wanting a fresh start? If you need a symbolic clean slate to start making those changes in your life that you have always wanted to, then by all means take that clean slate and change! There is no shame in wanting to be the best you that you can be and there is no shame in using the new year to do that.

“So how does this apply to the experience of being a first year student?” you may ask.

College is a long process of trial and error experiences. As a first year student, I went into my first semester having some grand expectations of what how life was to be, how my academic performance would be, and how my social life was go to play out. Needless to say,  I came out of my first semester with the realization that my expectations were incredibly wrong. I am sure many of you know exactly that feeling.

Well I am here welcome you back to OSU, and to second semester! There is no better time to take what you have learned about your OSU experience, and build off of that. Don’t like how you studied last semester? Commit to making that change this year! Found way too much free time on your hands? Commit to joining a student org this year! The possibilities are literally endless. Take what you learned last semester and use this fresh start to grow from it. I encourage you to make those new year’s resolutions and go out there and be that new you.

 

What Your Peer Leaders Want You To Know About the Peer Leader Role

Leia Washington

I knew that I would love my time as a Peer Leader, but I was surprised by how much it has impacted my college career. As any Peer Leader would tell you, this position is way more than just a job. It requires hard work, commitment, and a large amount of dedication. However, the rewards are well worth it. There are no greater feelings than seeing one of your first-year students succeed, feeling the love and support from the rest of the peer leader team, and knowing that you have made an impact on this campus. This position will allow you, and your first-year students, to rediscover love for Ohio State and all that this wonderful buckeye community has to offer.

Madi Task

I think meeting so many new faces and being able to connect with them wasn’t the hard part for me, that’s the fun part and why I wanted the job. The hard part is knowing that so many intimidated freshman look to you for guidance and trust you with their stories and intimate insecurities, and it’s absolutely imperative that you remain an unbiased, trustworthy, and supportive voice for them. The job pays off a lot in terms of what you can get out of your experiences and relationships at Ohio State, but don’t come in thinking it’s just about hosting fun events with freshman. You might end up reliving your most problematic parts of your freshman year with someone just like you. I’ve learned how to better hold myself accountable to being that success story I wanted to see my freshman year by talking about the dreams of goals my freshman want for themselves this year.

Tony White

Being a Peer Leader is an amazing opportunity to enrich the lives of others during a very pivotal time in their lives. It is an important responsibility that takes courage, responsibility, and builds character. Every experience is what you make it, and this has the potential to be an unforgettable life changing experience.

 

Daphne-Jane

I think the most important trait of an effective peer leader is compassion. Being compassionate allows me to better care for my students by enabling me to truly work to understand their struggles and help them to determine the best solutions for them.

 

Logan Woodyard

To be a Peer Leader is to be an authentic leader. It’s important to be vulnerable and create a space for others to be vulnerable with you. Share your mistakes! Give what you have learned. And above all else, listen and love all people well.

 

Sarah Myers

As a Peer Leader, I have learned skills that help me relate, empathize, care for, and serve first year students. The office of First Year Experience not only prioritizes supporting students, but also how we support them. These skills have not only helped me build relationships with first year students, but it has helped me become a better person! This job has taught me that simply caring for people and giving them your time can truly make a difference ion their lives. I used to be in the habit of hoarding my time as my own, but now, I cherish the time I get to share with others. I have been so blessed with the opportunity to be a Peer Leader. If you even have the slightest interest in the job – APPLY NOW. You won’t regret it.

 

De Maas

Knowing that you can provide a student with resources and help them navigate campus from a student perspective and make Ohio State feel like home is extremely rewarding.

 

Corey Cox

Being a Peer Leader has allowed me to interact with students that are not like me in various ways. It has challenged me to think about my perspective, opinion, and values because I have learned about different world views and personalities through new relationships. My favorite thing about being a Peer Leader is the opportunity it has given me to cross paths with people who I would not have found on my own.

 

Isis Abreu

The Peer Leader role is something that you have to be very passionate about. The most important part to me is the student support we do. We work to make sure that we are helping students with their transition to college and giving them the tools they need to make their transition and first year a smooth ride. If someone is not passionate about taking a lot time out of their lives to focus on others, it is a job that will not come as easy. I am very passionate about relationship building and the well being of those around me. It does not make the job easy, but it does make it worth it to me.

 

Madison Taylor

You have to be self-aware and willing to engage in self-reflection about your experiences, biases, and character, because this job challenges you holistically. You have a lot of autonomy regarding the ways in which you carry out the roles of a Peer Leader, so motivation & creativity and success are positively correlated. College is a trying time, especially for first year students, but Peer Leaders and First Year Experience are here to be an additional network of support, and I am thankful to have been a part of this process.

 

Ezequiel Herrera

What I learned as a Peer Leader is to be a better supportive person by actively listening and providing the best support a individual may need by establishing long lasting active relationships with my students. Its so rewarding to hear all of their accomplishment and having them ask for your opinion during some of their rough times they are going through. One aspect of the job that surprised me is how some students do attach to you and you become extremely close friends! When they are going through a rough spot or something big happens you maybe the first person to hear. That is so special and so meaning fun. Establishing these friendships and helping to cultivate a great first year for my students was my favorite part

 

Josh Underwood

I have truly learned the definitions of the terms selflessness and diversity. Selflessness is possibly the biggest part of the job, and I think it is tested the most during the school year when you will have to be prepared to assist several first-year students with their questions and struggles while also managing your own personal life. The selfless part is so important because this can be a tiring feat, but staying connected to the goal of supporting first-year students in their transition and realizing the positive impact a helping hand can have on someone’s development is amazing to me. I have truly learned so much from the diversity on our staff and from the students in my groups at orientation. I’ve had the chance to interact and learn from others with differing racial, religious, political, socioeconomic, and sexual identities. Meeting so many different people has changed my worldview for the better and has made me feel more connected to different people like never before!

 

Raghad Kodvawala

This job challenges what you think you know. It’ll test your boundaries, challenge your assumptions, help you grow, but it’s also an incredibly difficult job to do at times. When you leave this position I guarantee you will learn so much and you will see the world differently.

 

Shawn Knecht

Being a Peer Leader is an experience unlike any other. The people you will meet will have a lasting impact on who you are and how you go through the world. Know that, because you will put so much into the work you do as a PL, you will get more than you would have expected out of it.

 

Emily Derikito

This is a job where you spend a lot of time helping others so it can sometimes be easy to forget about yourself. So make sure to take time for yourself, do something you enjoy, and practice self-care.

 

Shivani Patel

There is so much I have learned from being a Peer Leader. First, I feel like it has helped me gain new insight about the students that attend Ohio State. Growing up in the Columbus area, I always felt that I had an idea of what Ohio State was but the role of being a Peer Leader has given me a new perspective. I have learned that Ohio State and the college experience is unique to each person. As students explore what college and Ohio State means to them, I truly have seen the value of making connections to other people and resources early. In addition, prior to this job I felt as if I just assumed I knew someone’s story or identity. However, this job has allowed me to learn so much about listening to other’s stories and placing value in their background and experiences. I want to pursue a career where I am around people regularly, and I think this job has shaped me so that I can better understand and support the people I may work with. One of my favorite parts about the job is how genuinely caring the staff is. It has helped me feel connected to Ohio State in ways I thought I never would. I always thought that I was going to college purely for academic reasons, however this role of supporting first-year students has aligned well with my interests and passions. My main advice to give to students to be an effective Peer Leader is to have faith in the first-year students you work with. At such a big school, it is easy to feel lost or disconnected but I think it will go a long way for the first-year student to know what someone else has faith in them and is looking our for them.

 

Kelly Eyers

Apply to be a Peer Leader if you truly have excitement and energy about helping people find their way here at Ohio State. It’s a great way to make a difference in the Buckeye community.

 

Dylan Munson

My love for helping people is what initially drew me to this the Peer Leader role. Being a Peer Leader is a lot more hard work than I thought, but I wouldn’t trade my time in FYE for anything else. I am constantly trying my best to help first-year students feel at home here at Ohio State. I truly love helping them in navigating college life and finding their place on campus.

 

 

Mary Tillman

You don’t have to be the 4.0 GPA, super involved, optimistic, well-rounded Ohio State students to be successful as a Peer Leader. It just takes a real person with real experiences who wants to share their story.

 

Andrew Batarseh

My biggest piece of advice is that I wouldn’t take this job just because it looks good on a resume. Being a Peer Leader requires a lot of time and emotional investment and can be very difficult at times. With this, however, this job has helped me grow in many ways. Through the support of probably the best professional staff team on campus, I’ve gained maturity, time management skills, professionals skills, relationship skills, and much more. All this being said, being a Peer Leader doesn’t require a superhero of a person who has their whole life together. Being a Peer Leader simply requires a person who is invested in supporting students and will carry out that investment with their time and energy.

 

Jillian Channell

The connections you make from this experience are ones that you wouldn’t get anywhere else. My fellow Peer Leaders have become some of my greatest friends and the professional staff are great role models to look up to. I have gained experience in public speaking, professionalism, communication, and much more all while having a ton of fun!

 

Natalie Garrett

When I was first coming to college, I remember how incredibly terrified I was of the unknown. I remember having so many questions and no one to ask them to. One of the most rewarding parts of being a Peer Leader was being able to calm some of those nerves that the incoming first-years had. Knowing that students left orientation no loner feeling nervous, but excited and ready to come to Ohio State, made all of those early mornings worth it.

 

Work in Progress…

As I drove back to campus this past Thanksgiving break, I caught myself reflecting on my first collegiate break freshman year: I had gone home, I listened to my friends brag about their awesome, new college lives, and I regretted going to Ohio State. That’s right, I hated it here during my first semester. Where some people had trouble adjusting to the academics or finding what they liked, it turned out that my biggest challenge during my first semester was making friends (not to say I didn’t have my hiccups with those other things too, but I digress). The largest contributor to this struggle was the fact that I had come here from Tennessee. I didn’t know a single person here at Ohio State and I was pretty shy. I’ve always had trouble making new friends since I’ve never been the most outgoing person and all. A large portion of my friends in high school had only come into my life due to some other mutual friend. But I didn’t have that here at Ohio State. I had to start over, completely new. However, here I am, now in my third year, and I can’t imagine how life anywhere else could have turned out as well as it did. So here are some tips if you’re also a(n) first year (out-of-state) student feeling just as defeated and out of place as I did my first semester:

  1. Stay Positive and don’t lose faith. Throughout my first semester I couldn’t shake my negative experiences, which ultimately altered my entire perception of Ohio State. This place just isn’t for me. I am never going to fit in and find friends. For so long I led myself to believe that there was no hope, and I should just transfer before it was too late. It took quite a bit of time, but eventually I made my first friend (shortly after I had convinced myself to give up hope, too), and that was the beginning of the turning point to my Ohio State experience.
  2. Keep trying. Don’t give up if you haven’t found your fit. I joined four different student orgs and tried my hardest to make friend in my classes and res hall. Unfortunately for my freshman self, all but one of these resulted in failure, and that one wasn’t even a success until a week or two before finals.
  3. Be patient with your transition. Being at Ohio State was such a different experience than anything I had expected or experienced at home. There was so much newness all around me and it made everything significantly harder for me. To add on to that, I was the only one in my friend group to go away for college. As I was trying to get used to all the newness here, I would often turn to my friends back home for support, but they could never quite comprehend just how hard of a transition I was going through. Like I said, they were thriving and loving their new lives. Our lives just weren’t the same anymore. OSU was rapidly changing me and this only made me feel more alone and disconnected, not just here at OSU, but also to the old life I once knew.

My first semester was pretty rough, but now, I have the best roommates, friends, and support system I could have ever have hoped for. Ohio State is my favorite place in the world and it’s impossible for me to fathom that one day I’ll have to leave. If you take away anything from this, remember that there are tens of thousands of students on this campus and over 1,300 student organizations on campus; there is a place here for you. You may not find it right away, but you will eventually. Because you belong here.

Just a Small Town Girl, Living in a Lonely World…Until 2nd Semester

I have lived on a farm my entire life. I come from generations of farmers and a family that hasn’t strayed too far from northwest Ohio until recently and because of that, I have a very different experience than most people. Coming to Ohio State, I realized this very quickly. I was on a floor where only one other person came from a small town/farm/rural area… this one person was my roommate who I went to high school with. Being different than everyone else, I quickly felt left out and like I had missed out on experiences in my life because I didn’t go to a larger public school or have the same experience as everyone else.

The feeling of being left out had me homesick for a while. I struggled trying to figure out who to hang out with and what clubs to join. I struggled navigating the bus systems (both COTA and CABS). This then led to me not venturing far from my dorm. I actually rarely left my dorm until a few people from my suite (I lived in good ‘ole Morrill Tower) convinced me to go out to eat with them on a random Friday night. Luckily because of them, I started to venture into campus more.Coming from a small town, I was not used to the idea of a city. I was in shock when I walked onto campus. I came from somewhere where I was literally surrounded by cornfields and bean fields. Campus was a city in and of itself! I then wondered how I would ever figure out Columbus if I couldn’t even figure out campus.

Luckily, even though my first semester was difficult and overwhelming, I was convinced to stay another semester. If you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed IT’S OKAY. Second semester I found a few clubs (with the help of my peer leader and advisor) that made me feel at home. Campus started to feel a lot smaller, and I started to feel like I had a bigger place on campus. I was able to navigate my way around both campus and parts of Columbus.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, out of place… Don’t worry. You’re not the only one and it’s okay to feel that way. First semester, I had no idea what could be accomplished in the spring semester, and little did I know I would also find my fit on campus.

The Raw Truth About Agriculture

When you hear the word “agriculture”, what words or images play in your mind? Perhaps you see an image of a combine plowing through a field. Maybe you think about the acres and acres of corn you see on your drive home. Maybe you think about cowboys, “southern accents”, that one Luke Bryan song, or that one person in your class who always came to school with mud on their boots. These ideas are small fractions of rural agriculture in the modern world.

When I tell people I’m an agriculture major, I usually get a lot of replies backed with stereotypes and assumptions. Most people ask me if I grew up on a farm or if I’m from a “farm town”.  Although I did grow up in rural southern Ohio, I never considered a career in agriculture until a scholarship opportunity nearly fell into my lap my senior year of high school. I was desperate and driven to burst through every open door that would lead me to my dream school- Ohio State. Little did I know that this opportunity would change my life entirely.

Most people transition to college “knowing” what they want to study or exploring the freedom that comes with choosing your major. My agriculture scholarship had restrictions so I was indefinitely locked into the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.  I was scared out of my mind and worried that I wouldn’t enjoy my classes or that I wouldn’t connect with any of my peers. To my surprise, I found a great need in the ag industry that I actually saw myself fulfilling- communication.

I would be lying if I told you that I perfectly molded to my peers. We had some similarities with our involvement in 4-H, but my projects consisted of cooking and scrapbooking, not livestock. Our families both worked with natural resources but my father worked in the lumber industry, not the agricultural industry. My school did not have an FFA program I could be involved in (until my senior year), I was not a 4-H camp counselor, nor did I grow up on a farm. Despite these contrasts that make me feel somehow less experienced, I have come to understand the advantages I have in communicating and analyzing my perspective and other’s perspectives of the ag industry.

I have realized that I do not fit into this perfect, square mold. I cannot morph comfortably into a box shape that confines my opportunities and achievements. But one year later and here I still stand, ready to shatter the glass ceiling that traps the future into oblivion about the raw truth of agriculture. I have found that I am most passionate about breaking the stereotype in a way that inspires other young people to pursue a career in agriculture. I  am passionate about my role as a young women in agriculture. And because I am passionate, I am now confident that agriculture is for me.

Having IT Together

There she is, that girl you always see getting coffee every morning. She is always so put together. She for sure has it together. Or that cute guy you really like, who everyone knows and is really involved at the university. Yup, he has it together. And what about your peer mentor? There is no way they don’t have it together. I mean how could they not? How does everyone have it together, and how can you get in on it? Well I can let you in on a little secret: most people do not have it together and are going through something you know nothing about.

I get it — you want to have it together — but what is “it”? Maybe you want to have it together on social media. Everyone else does. Every time I log onto Instagram, everyone is happy or just getting back from some super cool trip. Maybe you see everyone else has found their very best friends and you don’t have that yet. Or maybe you want to have it together when it comes to your major and career path. You still do not know what it is you want to do for the rest of your life, spring semester is creeping up on us, and you honestly do not know what to do. And I am here to say, that is perfectly okay. We are all on different paths and that is more than alright. There is not just one Ohio State experience, but multiple ways to have your very own experience.

No one knows this better than me.

Ask anyone that knows me and you will find that I constantly feel like I do not have it together. I am a senior and I have no idea what next year is going to look like for me. I have some plans, but none that are official yet by any means. I also fall victim to comparing myself to others. And with social media being relevant in most of our lives, it is an easy thing to do. I see how others are doing, then have the nerve to deem myself successful or not successful just by looking at other people’s post. How could I possibly measure my success off of that? I do not know what others are truly going through. We only see what other people let us see. And like I said, we all have different paths. This is my life to live and I am going to live it the only way I know how.

So maybe I am saying a whole bunch of nothing. Maybe you still do not feel like you have it together. So hopefully this can help: make plans but know plans vary like the wind. You want to have some structure in your life, but do not get too caught up in the details. Make goals and actually follow them. You can write goals down, place them where you will see them, remind yourself of them, but try to have something to work towards. Do not be afraid to try new things and get out of your comfort zone. Find yourself in the process. And lastly, do not forget the little everyday success. Sometimes getting out of bed and going to that 8 am is having it together.

Things might not be going your way now, but trust with effort and hard work it will. And it may not go the way you thought it would, but life will work itself out. But for now, let’s just take one day at a time.

Finding My Community @ tOSU

The Ohio State University was not what I expected both in a positive and negative sense.

Escaping the Brecksville Bubble

I came from a predominantly white high school in Brecksville, Ohio (20 minutes south of Cleveland) where you could count the total number of black students on two hands. People for the most part had similar beliefs, political views, lives and just general outlooks on life. And while I was used to living in that community for most of my life, and was definitely a part of it, I 100% felt sheltered from my identity and often felt I didn’t have a chance to find out what being unapologetically black meant for me. I told myself I’d go to college at a big school like Ohio State to escape the “Brecksville Bubble”, and essentially expose myself to more racial, religious, political, economic and even sexual diversity.

How I Found My Community

I did an early arrival program for the Bell National Resource Center’s (BNRC) Early Arrival Program for African American males. I knew this would be the first time I’d be surrounded by majority (all) black males in an academic setting, and not just at a family event or church setting. One would think I might be nervous being around such a variety of people, but it automatically felt right for me. There was about 50-60 of us who showed up three days early to move in and begin all of the BNRC events. We were split into cohorts of about 8-9 students, and we built relationships on smaller scales at first. We got very close with our groups early on and throughout the first couple of days because of all of the time spent together, but the last day we probably got the closest as we did a campus wide scavenger hunt starting at the ARC, going through West to North to South campus, and then all the way back to the ARC, all by running! It was a competition in which cohorts teamed up and faced each other, and to this day it’s one of my best experiences at Ohio State. I finally had the opportunity to feel unapologetically black and meet people and make friends with people who could relate to me better. Even now our cohort and group still keeps in contact, and I’m close with multiple people from the program.

A Little Wake-Up Call

At this point, my excitement was sky high and I was so ready for the year now that I had developed so many relationships with different types of people. However, I was brought back to some of the realities I would face after I was in the elevator of my residence hall (Park-Stradley) on the regular move-in day. I saw a white mother (you’ll understand why I had to mention her race in a moment) trying to get into the elevator before it closed, and I held it open for her. She said, “Thank you,” but her very next words were, “Oh, so what sports do you play here?” And my reaction to yet another microaggression was…

I said, “Uh…I don’t play any sports here.” and she said, “Oh…so you go to school here?” And I said, “Yes I do,” and she said, “Ok, so you like live here?” and once again I had to say, “Yes I do”. What could be a bigger buzzkill than to have tokenization and microagressions I was used to in high school become the same treatment I received on my first full day of college? Unfortunately, I’ve experienced microaggressions from several other people I met during the time I was here, even from my own roommate.
The lack of racial diversity relative to the size of Ohio State was another unexpected fact. About 6% of the total population is black, a percentage that is mostly made up of women.
There are only about 120 black males per class. That stat seems to be declining each year and is made up of primarily black athletes. This meant that the majority of black males in my class were at the BNRC and that even two classes of black males at a campus of 59,000 couldn’t fill up the seats of an entire lecture hall — a surprising realization for me.

But for that same reason, I became appreciative of an experience like the BNRC. It helped me get connected to Hale Hall and went to Office of Diversity and Inclusion events and allowed me the opportunity to meet other black students and form really strong relationships.Through my current role as a peer leader, as well as other opportunities I’ve taken advantage of on campus, I’ve been exposed to individuals from vastly different backgrounds that my own. These include others from different economic backgrounds, geographic regions, students with vastly different political and religious views, and peers with different sexual orientations and gender identities.  The opportunities I’ve taken advantage of have helped me to find myself and my community here on campus, and made me more holistic and open minded in the process.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Having done orientations all summer, I frequently asked incoming students why they chose their specific major.  Although some responses included passions, many people spoke in empty buzzwords.  Even worse, Exploration majors were often ashamed of admitting their decision, or in their minds, indecision.  But what is so shameful about recognizing that college, and your first year specifically, is a time to do exactly that…explore?  I’ve found that regarding choosing a major, students are preoccupied with work: type of work, where to work, who to work for, compensation for work, etc.; the last is most common.  But, I’d like to refer back to the more childlike question we should be asking “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Growing up, I always thought I wanted to be a doctor.  My classes and extracurriculars reflected this desire.  I didn’t always enjoy what I was doing, but I was sure I wanted to be a doctor…or at least I thought I did.  Truth is, I rather arbitrarily chose ‘doctor’ when I was really young, and adults and peers latched on to the idea because it was “impressive.”  So, I went with it, and not many people questioned the ‘why’ of my decision because they were too fixed on the occupation’s status, and, to be honest, so was I.

By the end of high school, when it was time to apply to college, I was beginning to question my doctor dreams.  However, I was too scared to admit this, to both myself and others, so I quietly picked Public Health as my major and chose Ohio State (THE Ohio State??).  Pretty early on I questioned my motivations for majoring in Public Health.  I quickly realized I didn’t want to be a doctor anymore, now that I had a better understanding of what it meant to be a doctor.  I thought maybe I could salvage the major and do health policy, but this led me to my second realization: I was choosing majors based on occupations that had fixed education paths (i.e. undergrad + med school + residency = doctor).  I needed to get out of this headspace in order to figure out what it was that I wanted to do, or, more importantly, who I wanted to be.

I took the time to explore academically my second semester with a GE in the Geography department (Geography 3701 – Making of the Modern World for those that are curious) because someone I looked up to told me it completely changed the way she saw the world.  I wanted that feeling.  That is what I wanted to get out of college, so I chased that feeling.  I got that and so much more when I changed my major to Geography at the end of second semester.

I know that not everyone desires to be a geographer.  We need doctors, lawyers, and engineers, but we need artists, teachers, and academics, too.  As long as you think of your major like I think of geography, you’re off to a good start.  Don’t think of your major as what you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life, but rather how you will be doing it.  Four people could be passionate about environmental justice, for example, but one decides to be an environmental engineer, another an environmental policy analyst, the third a community organizer in an area greatly affected by climate change, and the last an artist whose work changes the way people feel about the environment.  Same cause, different strategies.

It took a lot of time for me to be comfortable with having a major with no set career path, but I don’t want to conceptualize the future in a fixed way.  I want to be, do, study, learn, explore, and create.  My dad always told me, “If you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”  That’s the dream.  That’s my goal.  That’s my future.