Spring break is over and finals are in sight, which means your first year is almost over. So, now what? About this same time during my first year I had the opportunity to attend a retreat with a student organization I am involved in on campus. At the end of the retreat the director gave a very powerful message about how as the first year was coming to a close and it was time for first years to settle down and “unpack their bags.” After spending a year exploring various options for involvement, if they had felt they had found their place in this group it was now time to settle down and dive deeper into the organization to provide the next generation of leadership for the group.
It’s no secret that the success of a student organization is often due to strong leadership from upper class students. Thus, it is crucial for the next group of students to step up to take on leadership roles and dive deeper into the organization. That’s not to say that you should take on leadership roles in every organization; instead, you should think about stepping up to lead in areas where you feel passionate. I am a firm believer that stepping up to lead does not necessarily mean that you have to have an official leadership title or position, but that you lead by example. For me, there were two juniors that I met during my first year who did not have any official position of leadership in our student organization, but to me they were two of the strongest leaders because they led by their examples. They went above and beyond to make me feel welcome and a part of the group. As a result of their example, I have worked to do the same for the students who are coming after me. Being devoted and a consistent member who is fully present is sometimes the most significant way to contribute.
As you think about areas where you may want to dive deeper and “unpack your bags” make sure that you evaluate WHY you are doing it. As a college student, I understand the temptation to take on a positional leadership role simply so you can list it on your resume. If that is your motivation to take on a leadership role, I urge you to think twice about the role. Work to find something you are truly passionate about, you believe in, and that excites you. If you are passionate about what you are doing, it will be easier to be motivated to do a good job. If you don’t care about the organization or your position, you will likely struggle to stay motivated in the role.
While some may have found a niche on campus where they feel they belong and can call home, it’s alright if you haven’t! As my first year came to a close I still wasn’t 100 percent sure where I belonged and I continued to explore a few involvement opportunities at the start of my second year. I think it is much more important to find meaningful involvement than just any involvement, so if it takes a little longer to find the perfect place, that is okay!