Make the most of your time here

By Dan Mollison

When our time comes to leave the University and embark out into the real world, what will we bring with us?

Nine days from now, thousands of us will graduate from the University and prepare to leave the place we’ve called home for these past few years. Our journey in Champaign will be over. We will have to leave college behind us forever.

Our college experience is a lot like an Etch A Sketch drawing. As we learn new lessons and overcome new obstacles each semester, we add to our pictures bit by bit. Some of us dedicate more time than others to our sketches, and some of our drawings become more elaborate than others. But no matter who we are, no matter what our drawings look like at the end of our time here, we all must shake our sketches clean when we leave. We must uproot, we must wipe away our college lives, and in doing this we must move forward and begin again with nothing. What will matter most as we embark into the world is not the drawing we etched while at the University, but our ability to create a new picture in the next stage of our lives.

Don’t let the power behind everything that you do here extend only to a one-page resume. Pursue experiences that empower and train you in the skills that you need, and you will be best suited to create the life you desire. Work jobs and join activities that will help you improve your ability to communicate and to work with others to achieve common goals. Seek out mentors that will challenge and nurture you. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to go out on a limb, even if it means risking failure.

My sophomore year I co-founded an organization dedicated to increasing awareness about sexual assault. We brimmed with enthusiasm and energy, and we had lofty ideas about what we wanted to accomplish. Three months later our organization folded. Although my involvement in this group is not something I’ve ever included on a resume or received any direct benefit from, I learned some extremely valuable lessons from creating such a miserable failure. I discovered the importance of having clear goals and expectations, how to be realistic about what I’ll be able to accomplish, and in many ways I learned what not to do as a leader. While I had come across these lessons before, I more fully understood them after I had stumbled without them.

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We students are fortunate because the University gives us the opportunity to be bold. It’s okay if we stumble, or even fall flat on our faces while we’re here – we have many people at the University who are looking out for us to make sure that we are receiving a good education. Since we are being taken care of now, and since we’re going to be shaking our drawings clean at the end of college, why not go out on a limb while we’re here? Why not take risks, so that when our turn comes to walk down the aisle, we will be prepared to start etching new drawings in the next stage of our lives?

From everything I’ve been involved with at the University, the experiences I’ve grown from the most are those that pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to challenge my own beliefs. If you want to take full advantage of your time at the University, have as many unique and contrasting experiences as you can while you’re here. See speakers when they come to campus, have political debates with your friends and exercise the University’s many avenues to help others in our community. If you do this, you won’t be disappointed with the person you will have become by your graduation day.

It has been an absolute pleasure writing for you this past semester, and I am deeply grateful for being given the opportunity to have a voice in our community.

Thank you for sharing this space with me. I hope that when your time at the University comes to an end, you will have the same gratitude for this place as I do.