As of this past Wednesday I am a candidate for graduation ! December 19, 2015 I will have completed my undergraduate career. While I go through the process of preparing to take the GRE, applying to graduate schools, and applying to jobs I am still ever so aware that I am still apart of this community and I want to utilize the time I have left the best I can – through service. So my interest was peaked when I received an email about volunteering to serve on a University Senate Committee earlier this month. Today in Argumentation and Debate (COMM 230) we had a mock debate forum to prepare for an upcoming assignment, and the topic of discussion was higher education.
My professor posed the question to the panel: “what do you think is the biggest problem in higher education and what do you think needs to be done to refocus higher education to alleviate these problems?” The conversation that flowed from the panel discussion and the resulting deliberation was extremely enlightening and encouraging. A lot of the problems mentioned don’t require money or new infrastructure in order to provide a solution, but rather the reappropriation of resources already in place but poorly utilized. For example the issues of advising, testing, and departmental camaraderie/ mentorship were bought up during the panel, and all of the solutions involved making small, incremental changes to current infrastructure to make it more available and successful in providing help for students.
Like many of my COMM 230 classmates I am a transfer student that struggled at first to acclimate to the big university environment. I will admit that I haven’t whole-heartedly dived into my campus community in all the ways possible. I was intensely scared in my first two semesters at UMD. I had come from a school the fraction of the size of UMD and therefore I found myself dealing with a lot of new challenges. Upon transferring I immediately got myself on the listerv for numerous organizations I was interested in becoming involved with, but my school work challenged me enough to the point that there was not much time left for anything else.I suffered immensely from test anxiety and sought to ameliorate the issues surrounding this before focusing on anything else.
In addition to my school work by my third semester (and my first living on campus at UMD) I was working 2 jobs. This was exciting, and while my second job was service oriented it still was more geared towards my interest in education. I served as an assistant to a TA in Physics for Biologists I. I certainly enjoyed this experience and it helped me to refocus on education as a career.
Coupled with my educational experience came the social challenges of being at a big school such as Maryland. I didn’t know many people and I quickly got involved with people who partied. I tried that scene and didn’t like it much – it grew old quick and I could see the damage being done to my mind and body by participating. Going out sober was just as depressing if not more depressing than drinking. I wanted to be numb to the things I saw just because I couldn’t believe that this was “it.” It just wasn’t me, but I understand and empathize at the same time. This college experience is all about learning and either finding or reinforcing an already found purpose for your life. One thing I have learned is the importance to not dwell on the past. So although I have had some rough times these last 2 years I am seeking to leave behind suggestions on how to make it better for current and future students at UMD who are going through or have gone through the same things with educational and student affairs – whether that’s testing anxiety or getting acclimated to the university environment as a transfer student.