When I learned last week that I was assigned an “advice” article, I laughed a little bit. I feel less than qualified to give advice to anyone, and the fact that I’m in my fourth year at EMU mostly means that I’m startled every time I think about this coming spring. That being said, I’ve learned a few things between my first semester on campus and now. Let me pass them on to you:
First, ask questions. I struggled with this my first year on campus. I have a memory of taking World Religions with Professor Peter Dula and barely saying a word the whole semester. When I compare the way I acted in class my first year with how I learn now, I want to shake my first-year self.
Professors are here at EMU because they want to be. Each one of them could be teaching at other institutions with larger endowments and smaller course loads; they could be working in other fields with their graduate degrees. Instead, they choose to live here and teach us; we are allowed to ask them questions. I am tempted to say that we owe it to them.
Second, actively seek to learn new things. Learning takes work. This includes learning inside and outside the classroom; students learn from reading textbooks, participating in laboratory exercises, volunteering, playing on sports teams, talking to their roommates, going to religious services, not going to religious services, cooking, dumpster diving, and a host of other activities. The key point is that learning is active. College is no place for the passive soul.
Third, Be considerate of others. For many first-year students, this is the first time you have lived with people other than your family. This is the first time you have had the freedom to essentially do whatever you want.
Please be considerate of the hundreds of students living around you. When you are playing music in your room, think about the thickness of the walls. When you are in the library, think about the students who are studying. This is an important life lesson: your actions directly affect the lives of other people.
Finally, “Wherever you are, be all there.” You will have four years here, on average – some of you will leave after only a semester or two; some of you will stay for extra years. In either case, you have a limited amount of time on this campus with these people. Be fully present here. That is the best advice that I can give you.