Advice for my Younger Self

By: PJay

Greetings everyone! I am so excited to be back to share a few things that I have learned about college and wished an upperclassman could have told me while I was in my younger years. I’m hoping my advice and experiences can guide you to know that it is alright to feel confused right now and that things will get better with time.   

One of the biggest things that I can remember struggling with as a freshman, and even to this day, was maintaining good grades. You may not have received the grade you wanted on an assignment, a test, or in an overall class, but that is fine. College was the first time I had to experience what it felt like to retake a class. It was EMBARRASSING, so I didn’t want to talk about it to anyone. When I learned how to accept the fact that I needed to retake a class, it only challenged me to work harder, learn, and love the class more. Understanding the topics better the second time around will influence you to be more eager to learn which will help you achieve the grade you want.  

Advice to my younger self

I know it’s difficult to hear your friends or classmates say that they barely even studied and still got an A on an exam, whereas you put in so much effort to study the night before but still received an unsatisfactory grade. However, sometimes you have to remember to not compare yourself to them because you are unique and everyone has different learning techniques. Someone can say they only studied for an hour the night before the exam, but that may also mean they studied for an hour every night for a week or the whole semester leading up to the day of the exam. You have to discover what works and doesn’t work for you. Don’t doubt your abilities and your intelligence because you are still learning. No one is expecting you to just know something or get everything right the first time. Remember to not let a grade define who you are. You are a person, not a number or a letter.  

Another thing that I remembered struggling with the most was making friends. Friends can actually help you get through a lot in college. I used to feel hopeless in making friends because when I introduced who I was or who my people were, many of the students that I met have never heard of the Hmong people before. They just assumed I was “Chinese” or “Korean”, so I was placed in an awkward situation when explaining who my people were. Because of those experiences, I shied away from going out to join clubs or even attend classes sometimes. I didn’t know what to do but eventually, I joined an organization that I identified the most with, the Asian Pacific American Association (APAA). By being more active on campus, I learned more than I thought I already knew about people of color, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community. If you want to learn more about the world than just what you’re taught in school, join a club. Not only do you learn more about others, but you also learn more about yourself.  It’s the easiest way to find friends who will accept you.

Lastly, I want to emphasize that it is okay if you cannot decide on your major. I have seen so many of my friends who wanted to be doctors their freshman year but now want to pursue other professions. Take classes that you have never taken before or even take classes that you may think you are not interested in. If you want me to be honest, there have been times where I enjoyed the classes outside of my major more than my required classes. For example, I have never taken physics prior to college and I was so intimidated to take it. I pushed it off until this year and discovered that it has been one of my favorite classes this semester.  

Sometimes we just all need a little bit of time for things to get better. You are not alone, you are smart, and you can get through all of this. If you are performing actions that come from your heart and passions, you will become the person you want to be in college.

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Sharon McCutcheon

Getting Involved and Why

By: Tony

One of the most popular pieces of advice you will receive during college is to “get involved”. Of course, there are tons of ways you can get involved, but many are probably not for you. The key to figuring out how to get involved is knowing what you want to get out of it. Do you want to serve others, fight for causes you believe in, or just want to have some fun? Different organizations on campus serve different purposes. I will give examples from my personal experience to demonstrate the wide variety of types of involvement.

Identity-Focused Involvement
My first instance of getting involved on campus was when I joined the Latinx/Chicanx Student Association and began to immerse myself in that community. I come from a very diverse hometown, and coming to Duluth was a bit of a culture shock. That, combined with my heavy involvement with my high school’s Latinx-focused student group, pushed me to become involved with LCSA. Soon after joining, I was elected to the Executive Board as the Freshman Representative, and I was allowed to play a major part in the goings-on of the organization. After a few weeks, the other members of LCSA weren’t just my friends, they were my family away from home. They made me feel like I belonged at UMD when the rest of the campus bogged me down with microaggressions and doubt. Even as a senior, my love for LCSA has never wavered, and I have done everything in my power to make sure that everyone feels as welcome and supported as I have. My involvement with LCSA is deeply rooted in my sense of identity as a Latino, and my experiences with it have made me more secure with that aspect of my identity.

Getting involved on-campus

Campus-Related Involvement
During my freshman year, I became highly-involved with the Multicultural Center. I didn’t get along very well with my roommates, so I would stay in the MC as long as I possibly could every night. As spring semester rolled around, I felt like I knew the MC like the back of my hand, but I wanted to get involved with the rest of campus as well. I was fond of my experience during Welcome Week, so I applied to be RockStar for Welcome Week, and luckily I got in. I suppose I did pretty well because they let me come back two more times. Being a RockStar is incredibly demanding. It requires being flexible, creative, and energetic for five days straight. When I say energetic, I mean it. I’m usually fairly quiet and reserved, but during Welcome Week, I am constantly running around, dancing, and yelling. As draining as it may be, it is also incredibly rewarding. I loved being the freshmen’s first point of contact with the campus. I wanted to ensure that they were as ready for college as they could possibly be. I remember how confusing and intimidating freshman year was, and I wanted to pay forward the great Welcome Week that I had when I was in their position. I wanted to have an impact on the whole campus by ensuring that the student body was well-equipped with the resources they need as soon as possible.

Service-Focused Involvement
Finally, I decided to get involved with campus through direct service to the student body. Which brings me to why I am writing this blog in the first place, as an extension of my position as a Peer Educator. In my position, my job is to provide services and access to resources that my peers need to excel academically and professionally. I want to see everyone I work with land their dream internship or job, and I want to do everything I can to make that dream a reality. All three examples of involvement I have mentioned have degrees of service associated with them, but I feel like my Peer Educator position allows me to directly serve the UMD community on an almost-daily basis.

Of Possible Interest: 

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Danilo Batista

Go Big or Go Home

By: Willow

I have an exercise for you, close your eyes and think about everything you’ve ever wanted to do in college. Think about the organizations you want to join, the classes you want to take, or if you want to study abroad. Think of all those things. Now make a list of everything you want to do or have ever wanted to do and come back and finish reading this when you’re done.

Are you done?
Ok, good.

Look at your list, you now have a roadmap of all the things you should do.

Make a roadmap for your life

I know it’s not always that simple, you have to have to have time for your classes, your job, occasionally sleeping. But this is a list of all the things you should give an honest try to doing.

I am about to graduate, and I realized there are so many things I wanted to do that I never did. There’s an old Iowa State University commercial that shows how all the little things in your college career can help lead you to where you’re meant to go. I encourage you to check it out.

Basically, what I’m saying is make the very most out of college, and that’s way easier said than done. Go to at least one meeting of every club you’re interested in. Take classes just for fun. Go out with your friends.

If you are already in groups at UMD, make sure you’re making the most of them. I am a member of Gamma Sigma Sigma, the National Service Sorority at UMD. I was in it for a year before I tried for a position, a year and a half before I applied to be a big, and I still am working on getting to know the other members. I used to not be as interested in getting to know everyone in my sorority. I thought there were some nice women, but I already knew which women were my close friends and everyone I just kind of knew who they were but nothing more. I finally started to really get to know as many members as possible and realized, they are wonderful people. If you’re not really putting yourself out there in your groups, you’re not getting as much as you could out of your experience. And honestly, you’re missing out.

I know this post is short, but the message is simple. You only college once (YOCO) so don’t live with regrets. There is a lot of sweet stuff that you really can’t do outside of college, so go live a sweet life.

One last thing, a quote from one of my favorite professors Dr. Cyndie Rugeley, “Do it all now, because you’re never going to be poorer.”

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Photo Source: Unsplash | delfi de la Rua

Navigating Through College as a First-Generation Student, Part II

By: David

From the previous post I had written, I took up on the concept of the experiences of first-generation students (FGS) and decided that I would elaborate on my own experiences as a first-generation student. From the previous post, I mentioned the two ways that helped me through college were: (1) capitalizing on campus resources & opportunities and (2) connecting with staff and faculty. Today, I’ll be exploring on two more ways that really helped me in navigating through college. With that being said, let’s dive in!

Navigating as First Gen 2

Finding a Social Network
For any student entering college, it is crucial to connect with a community or group of individuals who they can socialize and find support within. As an FGS, it becomes especially difficult since there is no prior knowledge of the college environment and thus creates a barrier in finding a social network to connect with. Fortunately, most college campuses give students the opportunity to find social networks to get involved in, whether it’s Greek Life, student organizations, academic opportunities, employment, etc.

For me personally, the most difficult part about finding social networks was actually connecting with other students. Granted, I came to college and roomed with 3 of my friends from high school, but I still had the desire to branch out and network with other students. Finding a social network was not easy and required a lot of trial and error. After my first Student Activities Fair, I was so excited to join the various organizations I had interacted with, but was quite disappointed when attending many of their meetings and events because I simply didn’t feel like I belong. My turning point came when I made the effort to get involved with the Multicultural Center. As a student of color myself, there were a lot of similarities I could identify with and reasons to get involved. It truly helped me find a social network with Asian Pacific American Association (which I have mentioned about numerous times in previous blog posts!). To segway into my next point, what worked best for me in terms of expanding my social networks was to get involved on campus!

Getting Involved!
If you’ve read my previous posts, you know by now that I am a HUGE advocate for getting involved on campus. Ultimately, my college experience has tremendously shaped my ability to navigate through college. Join a student organization, find on-campus employment, participate in events and activities hosted by the university, and conduct or assist with research in your academic department. These are SOME (many more out there) examples of getting involved on campus. So why get involved you ask? From the previous 3 points (capitalizing on opportunities, connecting with staff & faculty, finding social networks) I made in this blog series, getting involved is the best way to tie all of these together. I say this because through getting involved you pretty much cover all three areas and it is something tangible, or an action that anyone can make in terms of navigating through college.

My first year coming into college, I recall seeing a poster (you know, those inspirational quotes with the pretty pictures?) in a staff member’s office that greatly shaped my college philosophy. The poster quoted, “build bridges, not walls” and it had the most mesmerizing picture of a bridge I’ve ever seen. My point is, after reading that quote along with the captivating bridge, my philosophy was (and still is) to connect with as many students, staff, and faculty as I could before graduating. In doing so, I took up as many positions and opportunities as I could to branch out and expand my horizon of knowledge. In truth, this required me having to step outside my comfort zones and it was difficult at first I’ll admit; but as I reflect on my experiences, those moments of insecurity and vulnerability only allowed me to grow at a rapid rate professionally and personally. Being first-generation, it didn’t help that I didn’t have the knowledge or capabilities to interact and connect with others as I had wished, and often times I didn’t know what I needed or wanted to know. Life was rough, I tell ya. Fortunately, direct experience in leadership positions and active involvement really gave me a deep sense of knowledge and skills.

Conclusion
To wrap things up, I want to say that I am aware and sensitive to the fact that these four ways of navigating through college as an FGS might not be for everyone and that there are a lot of other ways to do so. By keeping things broad, I hope it helps push you to find your own way in succeeding throughout college. On a side note, I have come to observe the relationship between first-gen students and the university (campus life programs, academic programs, etc.). My conclusion is that the two have to meet in the middle. Students need to take an active role in securing (or at least attempt) these opportunities and services offered and be willing to step outside their comfort zones. On the flipside, the university needs to actively promote their services so students know what’s available to them and in addition, explicitly state their sensitivity and awareness of first-generation students.

My final tip for other first-generation students in navigating through college is this: be humble and open-minded. As an FGS, I understand that there is, to some degree, a sense of pride in NOT seeking help or assistance when struggling. The source of pride may vary from student to student, but it definitely exists. Furthermore, it is important to be vulnerable and allow room for constructive criticism and learning moments for your growth. This is more of a life tip, but keep your thoughts open to different perspectives to further expand your own and reserve judgement until proven. Stay warm Bulldogs!

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Photo source: Unsplash | Richard Tilney-Bassett

Trust Me, There’s a Club for That

By: Cassie

What is the one thing that you remember most about touring colleges? Was it the size of the dorms? Was it the food served in the dining hall? Was it that the school had the program that you really wanted to be accepted to? Well for me it was all summed up into just two simple words, GET INVOLVED. Every college I went to and every tour guide I talked to talked about the advantages of involving yourself in clubs and activities on campus. By the end of my college hunt I felt like I knew every club at every school and I felt like I was the fountain of “get involved” knowledge, so to speak. Well, when I finally got here I didn’t use my so-called “knowledge” like I should have.

There's a club

During my freshman year, I told myself that I would put myself out there and get involved in everything I could. I went to the activities fairs and thought I knew what all my options were based on the information from the tours. Then when the time came to sign up for all these clubs, I just simply didn’t join. I couldn’t exactly pinpoint the reason that I wouldn’t push myself to get involved, but I think it was mostly that I made a lot of excuses for myself. Some of these included wanting to do well on my homework, being scared to meet new people, and overall just feeling dorky for joining something I had no previous friends in. The funny thing is, most of the time I just sat and did routine Netflix marathons and didn’t acknowledge my homework during that time. I also didn’t branch out and make new friends, I stuck with my high school friends and really I was kind of miserable. I wasn’t getting all the things that I thought I would be getting out of my freshman year. I saw everyone else with new friends and having the time of their lives, so this year I decided to make a change.

I am currently in my sophomore year, and this year I have involved myself in more ways than I can count. I have really immersed myself in the business school and the clubs that it offers because I think it is so important to get involved in clubs that relate to your major. I am currently in Women in Business and the Student Healthcare Management Association. They have taught me the value of putting yourself out there and getting yourself involved with people in the business field. This doesn’t just apply to business majors either; I cannot emphasize enough how important networking is for EVERY MAJOR. It is also great to get involved with clubs in your major or collegiate unit because you can get together and talk about your fears, struggles, and your future because they are all in the same boat as you and talking is one of the most beneficial things you can do! I also was recently accepted into a study abroad program through the business school and I am so excited to see all of the new opportunities it brings me.

I know I am just highlighting the clubs in the business school, but I promise you that your collegiate unit has a club too. In fact, they most likely have one for your major! If you don’t want to get involved with clubs in your major, there are SO many other clubs and activities that are out there for you to get involved in, you just have to be willing to find what you like! Don’t be like freshman year me and take your opportunities for granted! Though I never thought I would emphasize it this much, there is so much to be gained from GETTING INVOLVED.

Of Possible Interest: 

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Photo source: Unsplash|Jeff Sheldon

Greek Life at UMD

By: Logan

At most college campuses Greek Life is a big topic. Every movie about college displays Greek Life in one way or another, for better or for worse. These organizations are as old as the University itself and the traditions continue to strive. In this post you will learn how Greek Life organizations help improve the campus and surrounding community, and how joining a Fraternity or Sorority can help you and your college experience.

First, let me give some background on fraternities and sororities as a whole. Greek Life systems have been around since the 1800’s at many universities around the world. The basic concept of a Fraternity or Sorority is a unified body of students dedicated to service and making long lasting relationships. Many people get the impression that Greek organizations are strictly devoted to partying and nothing else. This persona is usually displayed in college movies such an Animal House and The Neighbors. It is disappointing that people have this expectation for Greek Life because there are many benefits and experiences that can be had by joining one of these organizations.

UMD’s Greek Life consists of five fraternities and four sororities. The Fraternities list as follows: Phi Kappa Tau (which I am currently a member of), Tau Kappa Epsilon, Phi Kappa Psi, Alpha Delta, and Alpha Nu Omega. The sororities are Phi Sigma Sigma, Gamma Sigma Sigma, Beta Lambda Psi, and Kappa Beta Gamma. I have been involved with UMD Greek Life since Fall of my freshman year and I have had many great experiences from it. Greek Life has 3 main areas of focus: Social, Service, and Philanthropy. This means that our organizations are involved in Social aspects, such as meeting and getting to know other Fraternities or Sororities; Service, which involves our volunteering and work hours; and Philanthropy, which is the raising and donating of money to charitable organizations.

The media only tends to show the social aspect of Greek Life, but they never talk about our service and philanthropy events. Most organizations have their members complete a certain number of service hours per semester to show that they are doing volunteer work in the college or community. Another stereotype of Greek Life members is that they are not as involved in their studies and academics. This is very untrue. Almost all of the organizations require everyone to have a certain GPA to join, and if their grades fall too low they will be put on probation or even kicked out of the group. This holds members to a higher standard and requires them to concentrate on school before concentrating on other Greek Life events. Fraternities and Sororities are also a great way to get involved in leadership positions. Each Greek Organization has multiple positions that the members can run for, almost like Student Government. So any member can gain great Leadership skills by running for and being a leadership position holder. Fraternities and Sororities are also great for networking. Since many Greek Organizations on campus are very old, some members still live in the area and can help by donating money or just from networking. Larger organizations have multiple chapters across the country which is also very beneficial for networking. To help with this, the organizations plan big leadership events that all chapters can attend. There members can learn valuable leadership and networking skills that can benefit them in the future.

As you can see, there are many benefits to joining a Greek Organization. It can be helpful for building your resume, or just making your college experience more enjoyable. I strongly recommend any student that is interested in leadership, service, and brotherhood (or sisterhood), to come meet the Fraternities or Sororities and learn more about them. You can also learn more about the organizations by looking under Student Organizations in Campus Life on the UMD home page.

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Don’t Get Stuck: A College Student’s Guide, Part 2

By: Glen

A fear that many people have is being stuck with a “dead-end” job. This is why more and more people are attending college. The expectations of today are that people need a college degree (or more) to get the job they want. Unfortunately, running off to college and getting a degree is not the cure-all to avoid being stuck. If this is true, what is the answer? This is the second in a series of posts to help give some ideas for what to do while at college to give you an advantage in the world.

Don't get stuck

Explore The Unknown

My first post in this series discussed joining student organizations. Besides building resumes, joining an organization also aids in the networking aspect of advancement. When trying to brainstorm organizations to join, try to think outside the box. It is nice to be involved in at least one organization that is something you know you enjoy; however, college is a great time to try and expand your horizons, and learn some new skills. For some people, trying new things is easy. Whether it comes easy or not, continuing to grow as a human being is important to not getting stuck. I brought up student organizations again, because there are definitely chances to reach out and learn new skills in different student groups. If you see something that might interest you, but you are unsure about, try it out!

There are many more things to try in college; you never know when you will find something meaningful.

Here is a short list of things to try:

  • Study Abroad
  • Take a class for fun
  • Run for a leadership position in a club
  • Make friends with people from different cultures
  • Join those friends’ cultural organizations!
  • Become involved in a professor’s work (research or performance)
  • Apply for work just because it sounds fun

“Some of those ideas do not seem like things that can get me a job…” That statement is correct, in a small sense. A lot of these experiences will not lead directly to a full-time job out of college; however, they will help you develop your transferable skill set. Study abroad can help you gain the confidence to try new things, and be open minded. Taking a class for fun will aid you in your knowledge base, which never hurts. Holding a club leadership position puts responsibility on your shoulders, strengthening your leadership skills. Making friends with people from different cultures will open your world, in a similar way Study Abroad does, especially if you become active in their cultural activities. Becoming involved in a professor’s work can give you real-world experience, and a professional colleague. Applying for jobs that sound interesting can aid you in finding what in the world you want to do with your life!

I will end this post in the same manner I ended my first one: if you don’t want to get stuck, don’t sit still. Be proactive. Expand your horizons. All of those clichés are applicable. Whatever you do: don’t do nothing.

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