There is a general understanding at college that your primary focus should be on your schoolwork. This is probably true to some extent, as you are paying thousands of dollars to get a degree, after all. However, I believe just as much energy (if not more) should be channeled into involvement in the surrounding community and the relationships you are making.
Having only been here at EMU for a little over two weeks now, I am far from understanding the “ins and outs” of college life in the Shenandoah Valley. However, it takes little time or effort to notice that EMU puts an emphasis on their cross-cultural programs, encouraging us to “serve and lead in a global context.”
I took a year off to travel and volunteer before settling in at college, so I am in favor of the cross-cultural experience. It is, after all, one of the main reasons I chose to come to EMU. Along with cross-cultural experiences, I strongly believe getting involved in our own communities can also be influential in one’s learning experience. Having time in another culture showed me how little I know about the place I call “home,” and how much I could learn if I looked harder and got more involved.
As a first-year, I think one of the greatest challenges as a college student will be engaging in the community we are in. There is a lot to be learned from the people and opportunities in Harrisonburg, not just internationally.
In addition to immersing ourselves in a new community, one of the major adjustments to life at college has been the relationships we are build- ing, on and off campus. Through the process of having to leave behind the family and friends from my gap year, I have learned to appreciate the people I am surrounded with much more. Maintaining those relationships from afar will always be on my list of priorities, but I also want to be there for the people I am with now.
Echoing what President Loren Swartzendruber told first-years at the Sunday morning service for parents, I think it is important that we be as present as possible to the people that surround us. If it means a little less time on our phones or computers, so be it. The friendships we are making at EMU are here now, and hopefully will remain so for the next four years and onward.
I learned from my year abroad that the community I am living in has a lot to teach me, as do the people I will meet and the friends I will make. That lesson will help me as I become immersed in the EMU community.
-Hannah Mack-Boll, Contributing Writer
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