A first day on the 40 Acres can be a harrowing experience. Navigating through a maze of students on Speedway, averting the assault of tablers eager to pass out colorful flyers, scrambling for a front row seat in a dingy classroom in Burdine that smells like three day-old feet — college is a time of uncertainty and chaos, and finding your way at the 40 Acres might seem daunting.
But you are not alone. Countless resources within the College of Natural Sciences aim to provide support and maybe a little direction. Our advice: Take advantage of resources like Career Services (located on the fifth floor of Painter Hall), the Counseling and Health Center, the Sanger Learning Center, Handshake, Eureka and everything else designed to help you find what you need.
One of the greatest realizations I had in college was that the (sometimes monotonous) voice heard from the front of the lecture hall was, in fact, that of an actual living, breathing human being. The professor (or incredibly helpful TA) can be your greatest resource. They can help you discover a passion for organic chemistry, guide you on a successful career path or help you get into the lab of your dreams.
And whatever path or career you decide to take — be genuine in your approach. If you find that your chosen career path (or even the career path chosen for you) isn’t the one you thought it would be, don’t be afraid to change things up. A professor of mine once told me that a “career” and a “calling” are two different things — the first a ruthless climb to the top, the second a journey to find your fit in the world.
As we work to make sense of a life that stresses careers, success and money, it is incredibly easy to get caught in the trap of being someone you are not. In our race to the top of the food chain, it is easy to conflate self-worth with a letter or number on a ridiculously expensive piece of paper. It’s simple: You are more than your grades. Take time to do other things: grab ice cream with a friend, go to the gym or even explore the societal implications of the newest meme format. And most of all, remember that in the end, numbers don’t define you — you do.
As cliché as it sounds, college is full of ups and downs. Maybe you aced an exam or maybe you got stuck sitting next to the kid who considers the use of deodorant to be a mild suggestion. Either way, embrace the experience. And perhaps when you’re an old, pruny individual sitting in a rocking chair, you can fondly remember the era of discovery and personal growth that are your college years.
Rao is a neuroscience junior and the vice president of the Natural Sciences Council.