Think. Do. Make a Difference: How to Make the Most of Your College Experience

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Welcome, new students, and welcome back, Huskies. May the new school year find you revitalized and ready to move on with renewed spirit.

If you haven’t been on campus much this summer, you should find some quite exhilarating additions around this place: the new Integrated Science and Engineering Facility (ISELF), the elegant Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, the renovated Atwood Memorial Center, the revived coffee shop and brand new HuskyTech in the Miller Center, and some minor updates in student residence halls.

But what really brings it home by connecting all of these new facilities in unison, in my opinion, are the new lamppost banners that hang proudly across the campus. On these banners are some boldfaced letters that spell: “Think. Do. Make a difference.”

To me, these words are more than a marketing one-liner for the University; they amplify what our intellectual community strives to achieve and how the University aims to prepare her students for their future endeavors.

“How so?” you asked.

Here are my two cents on how you can make the most of the time you have here at St. Cloud State and make an impact at all levels.

Make some new friends from different cultures

You’ve always heard that college is the best place to experience diversity and learn about other cultures. I am here to testify that this is true.

With more than 1,000 international students joining the student body from over 80 countries in the world, you’re looking at one of the most diverse student populations in the state, given the size of the University.

It will not be surprising to find someone from another country sitting next to you in your biology class this semester. Go and make friends with these students. This is your chance to practice your sensitivity to other’s customs and traditions, and learn to accept differences among one another.

As diversity in workplace begins to become a common initiative worldwide, college is where you can best practice your skills to communicate and collaborate with people.

It is also through conversations with different individuals that spark interesting ideas that may benefit the campus community. To make an impact on the people around you, the first step is to expand your social horizon.

Think critically about social issues

Trust me, unless you work in industries like education, social work, or politics, you will hardly get a chance to hold a rich discussion about social justice, equality, religion, race, family, sex, and identity.

Yet, these are important facets of life that we can never escape from dealing with. Since you are already in a pool of intellectuals and curious learners, this is the perfect time to consider your positions on various social issues and reflect on what matters most to you and to the people around you.

Whatever emerges out of your critical thinking process could be the catalyst to your intellectual and humanistic development. If you haven’t done so, start thinking about what it means to be human; what it takes to live in this society; what makes you who you are and what you believe in.

You’ll be amazed by the transformation that happens from within this reflective experience. Real impact begins in you and how you perceive this world determines how you treat others.

Embrace the real world

I often find it a cliché when someone says college prepares you for the “real world” or that by doing something gives you the “real-world experience.”

As far as I am concerned, wherever you’re at now is the real world: working jobs to pay bills, meeting people of all paths, confronting challenges in life… all these while expanding your intellect and skillsets.

I think there’s nothing more “real” than living your current life and coping with all of the happenings around you. I figure what they really mean is your college experience would be a stepping stone to your future success, when you’re out of college.

To make a difference in your life, you must learn to embrace the college campus as your practice battleground. Most things that happen in this battleground are real-world matters that you should devote your best considerations and take responsible actions.

Take ownership of your plans, your actions, the grades you get, the company you keep, and be the cause of your life while you’re in college.

When all is said and done, remember that college is only as meaningful as you make it. Since you have made it here, why not get the most of it?

So, buckle up and enjoy the ride! And while you’re at it, remember to think, do, and make a difference.

Op-Ed originally published in University Chronicle Opinions.
Image by Jason Jones (SCSU), 2007.

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