Make It Count
By Melissa Gasca
Unigo Campus Rep at UCSB
It was about my junior year when I felt that I really started to get the hang of being a college student. After trying out many different buildings and hot spots on campus, I had found my top three places to study, dine, and socialize. I knew my way around campus, established a workout routine and favorite running trail, and knew how to pick better classes and professors, and pretty much had the quarter system down. But even until graduation, I was discovering new opportunities and resources that had me wishing I could go back and start over again for the chance to do a few things a little differently.
It sounds cliché, but college really is full of opportunities. For example, studying abroad: it allows you to travel almost anywhere in the world, live away for three months to a year, while receiving school credit. It’s an adventure that I regret missing out on. There are many different reasons that keep people from studying abroad, including expenses, losing your friends at school, falling behind academically, unbearable homesickness, and/or fear of being alone. I let many of these excuses keep me from even seeking more information about studying abroad. EAP, The UC system’s Education Abroad Program, was always offering informational meetings where you could talk to students that have been through the experience; I never even gave it a chance. Why wouldn’t I want to study in another country for about the same price of tuition?!
Even if you can never see yourself studying abroad, or those reasons seems too daunting, I’d challenge you to go to an informational meeting offered by your study abroad program. Most programs have an office on campus where you can talk to students who have the answers to your fears and questions and who will probably tell you why studying abroad was their favorite college experience by far. Andrea Lesovsky, a recent graduate of UCSB, she says, “I think everybody should go abroad. It is by far the best thing I did the entire time I was in college. It allowed me to make new friends, live completely on my own, and learn about and adapt to a new culture. By studying abroad I proved to myself that I could survive on my own and love it.”
Turn your daily college experience into more than schoolwork and partying and you won’t be sitting at graduation thinking about everything you missed out on. For example, a ballroom dance class may only be .5 units for two hours of class a week, or Beginning Sailing might seem somewhat intimidating for someone who is afraid of the ocean, but these are the classes, skills, and experiences that stick with you for a lifetime.
For me, learning how to properly serve a volleyball in Intermediate Volleyball class will stick with me for decades to come. Unfortunately it wasn’t until senior year that I discovered the joy and reward of these elective classes. In high school, extracurriculars are thrown at you from every which way and you’re almost forced to get involved as much as possible to keep up with the competition for college applications. But just like everything else in college, you’re on your own and those four years become what you make of them. There are plenty of outlets from activity classes, to clubs, intramurals, student government, committees, Greek life, and much more. You have to be proactive about it. When you start your freshmen year make a list of at least ten things you want to try or be involved it. Let your school’s website, the upperclassmen, and advisors be your guide to searching those things out.
Listen up on this one: Get to know our professors early on. It’s important to get to know professors and take advantage of the opportunities they give you to do so. I went three years thinking that “knowing” my professors and teaching assistants wouldn’t really matter until I was a senior preparing to apply for jobs or grad schools and needed academic recommendations. But then the end of senior year came around and I only had one or two professors who I confidently felt could write me an excellent recommendation. There are some professors or TA’s who you can really click with, and others who you might just never connect with. All professors offer office hours once or twice a week. You don’t always have to have a question, or want to talk about the reading (although it might help) but just go in to say 'hi' once in a while and establish a relationship with them. They can be key to hooking you up with internships and jobs throughout your college career. Not only are they helpful, they’re great people.
There’s no one to stop you from spending your four years in college going to classes, taking tests, studying every night, and partying on the weekends. But I’ve talked to enough of those types of graduates to know that they’re usually the ones with the most regrets. So don’t be a regretful graduate because college really can be the best four years of your life.