As my time as Peer Leader comes to an end, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you what my journey has been like. I was hired as a Peer Leader in April of 2016 and I have been a Peer Leader for the new first year students of 2016 and 2017. When I applied for this job, I was looking for a place where I could share my experiences with students who were experiencing first year transitions. I found exactly that: the platform to support new first year students who were in need of help during their first year at Ohio State. What I hadn’t expected were the ways that I have grown and the lessons that I have learned along the way. I thought I was taking a job where I punched the clock in and out of work and that my experience would be boxed into that time. My role as a Peer Leader has significantly influenced me over the last two years.
There are two things that I have learned from this job that I want to share: you can find community where you aren’t looking for it and everyone’s story is valuable.
I never pictured myself being friends with my coworkers — I had already found community and I didn’t feel a need for more friends. Throughout my first year as a Peer Leader, I did not invest in time outside of work with my fellow Peer Leaders. At the end that year I felt like I had missed an opportunity to know my coworkers. I was excited to correct my attitude for my second year as a Peer Leader. With the mindset that I should invest time in developing relationships with my coworkers, I began to find community in the same place that I wasn’t looking for it one year ago. Being a Peer Leader soon became more of a community to me than a job. I was more excited to be at work because I knew my coworkers on a personal level and I was more inclined to ask them for help and share ideas.
Being a Peer Leader taught me that I didn’t know how to listen to other people. That sounds a bit weird, but trust me, I was bad at listening to others. Have you ever talked to someone who always takes what you share with them (bad news, good news, etc.) and makes it about themselves? That was me, and I didn’t even know it. Some of the training for Peer Leaders included active and reflective listening. I have grown better at listening and I have started to intentionally listen to my friends, coworkers, and classmates. Learning how to listen has helped me discover that every individual has a story. Being able to hear others’ stories has shown me how people view the world and has ultimately helped me to love other people well. I have found it is easier to enjoy being around people when you have spent time listening to them and trying to understand their story. I have gotten to see the depth and individuality within people by taking time to listen to them.
For me being a Peer Leader turned out to be a great learning experience when I had previously viewed it as a way to guide and teach other people. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn so much from being a Peer Leader. I encourage you to step into places where you can learn from others. It is valuable to be around people who challenge your ideas so you can reflect on them. A learning experience like this doesn’t have to be a job; maybe it is through a student org you join, a place you volunteer, or a class you take. We tend to challenge ourselves academically, let’s challenge ourselves in a new way by going places and having experiences that aren’t where we are most comfortable – we might learn some impactful lessons.
You are nearing the end of your first year at Ohio State! You’re probably studying for finals, maybe figuring out your summer plans, or possibly thinking about your second year already. Whatever the case, I’m glad you are here, because I am going to share about how my second year was different than my first year.
As I returned to campus for my second year, my mindset was different than the previous year. This time around, I felt more confident and prepared. I knew the drill when it came to classes and living on campus. I had time to think about how to approach other aspects of my second year, like applying for my major, committing time to my involvement, and working an on-campus job. In my first year, the majority of my time and efforts was spent on academics; I didn’t have many other responsibilities. I was nervous to see how my new commitments fit in with my course load. I was approaching my second year with excitement and caution. I wanted to continue good standing in my classes, but I was also ready to take advantage of opportunities to help me grow outside the classroom. As I would learn over the course of second year, it is all about learning what’s important to you and finding a balance.
In my first year, I developed some habits that needed to be adjusted for success in my second year. Most of these habits were related to academics: where I studied, how I studied, and when I studied. I started to realize that I did not organize or structure my school work during my first year. This became a big problem for me at the start of my second year. My increased involvement and work forced me to re-evaluate my studying strategies. I learned that I needed to plan when I would work on homework or study for classes in order to do my best. For me, setting small goals for what I wanted to accomplish during a study session was very helpful. During my first year, it was nearly impossible for me to study in my room. I was constantly distracted and unmotivated when I found myself at my own desk. It was challenging for me to study in my room at the beginning of my second year, but I wanted to break that trend. By using my planning and goal-setting strategies, I learned to be disciplined and stay focused when studying in my room. These are just some ways that I have changed since my first year.
The biggest difference that I have seen between my first and second year at Ohio State is in how I spend my time. My first year was a stream of random events and occurrences that were squeezed in between my classes and homework. During my second year, I took time to think about what my priorities were and I ranked them in a top ten list. I then looked at my calendar for a given week and totaled the amount of time that I spent on each of those priorities. I was surprised to find that my priorities were disconnected from what I spent my time doing. I was motivated to change this and began thinking of ways that I could align my time with my priorities. Often you hear about time management skills and how important they are to success in college. I found that filtering my time through my priorities has been the best way to find a balance for my time. I was able to fully invest in my job and involvement while staying on top of my studies, and most importantly, I enjoyed what I was doing.
Your second year isn’t bound to look like mine, but I hope you found my experience helpful. My best advice to you is to reflect on your first year. Think about what you learned and how you grew as a student. I encourage you to think about how your second year might look different and what you can do to prepare yourself. I didn’t think very much about how my second year would go. Take advantage of the opportunity that you have to form some second year expectations and how you will approach reaching your goals, it will serve you well.