“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.” – Lewis Carroll
Going into college, my mom gave me a piece of advice that she heard on a podcast: be an “opportunity collector.” If an opportunity comes along, take it. It doesn’t matter if you do not feel qualified or if you do not know anyone else there. A single opportunity can change your life. So far, getting involved with jobs, clubs, and travel opportunities has enriched my overall college experience.
#1 – Jobs and Internships
During my first semester of college, I prioritized trying a variety of different jobs to see what I enjoyed most. I worked as a barista at a coffee shop, a docent at a national historic landmark, and a teaching assistant for a freshman honors college class. Interacting with customers at a coffee shop showed me that I find joy in talking with people around me. Giving tours at Meadow Brook Hall, a historic mansion, revealed that I enjoy presenting information to others and learning more about history. Being a mentor to incoming college freshmen taught me that I love forming relationships with people and helping people through transitions from one educational institution to the next. I would not have realized my career strengths without gaining experience during these jobs.
Another job I applied for was a NeW National internship. As the fall communications intern, my responsibilities include helping with social media graphics, writing blog posts, researching topics, and working on special projects. My NeW internship taught me more in one month than I learned in two years of communication classes. I had no previous experience in graphic design, but throughout my internship, I learned how to make eye-catching social media graphics. I researched topics for special projects and helped write a press release. I got to work for an organization I love and gain experience in the communication field.
Oftentimes, college students wait until their senior year to find a job in their post-grad career field. College students need to volunteer or work in their respective career fields as soon as they can in order to see if it is a good fit. Holding an assortment of jobs showed me aspects that I did and did not want in my future career.
#2 – Joining Clubs and Extracurriculars
College is the time in your life when you have the freedom to try new things before you start working full-time and year-round. When I was not attending classes or working, I looked for clubs that aligned with my interests. I got involved with a few Christian clubs and a weekly small group Bible study. I enrolled in an Emerging Leaders program. I participated in a spin cycling class and a kickboxing class for the first time at my college recreation center. I prioritized implementing healthy habits into my routine, which helped me relieve stress and find new hobbies.
I even signed up to go off-roading with Jeep Jamboree at a Jeep Adventure Academy event. It was by far the coolest “class” I have ever taken! Following the off-roading event, I joined the “Jeep Enthusiasts Panel,” where I provide feedback on upcoming Jeep Wrangler features every month. I am a female college student with absolutely no car experience, but I stepped out of my comfort zone and signed up anyway and I’m so glad I did.
I noticed that there were no clubs at my college for conservative women, so I started a Network of enlightened Women chapter. I wanted to create a space for like-minded women to come together, make memories, and learn from discussions and speakers.
During covid, when classes moved online, I used the extra time I was not sitting in class to travel. I attended student leadership conferences through NeW and other organizations where I learned about new policy issues and met lifelong friends. College is a great time to attend conferences because many groups will cover your travel expenses to attend, so take advantage of the free opportunity to see the country.
I also fulfilled my study abroad dream by traveling to London, England, in June 2022. I toured historical sites and experienced life in another country while earning college credit. When I returned, I realized how much studying abroad taught me about independence, compassion, and problem-solving. I now approach new experiences with the mindset that just because things are done differently in other places does not mean they are wrong.
I encourage you to be an opportunity collector as well—take advantage of new opportunities everywhere you go. You have to be willing to try new things to learn new things. If your college is hosting a trivia night or silent disco event, grab a friend and check it out. If you do not want to join any clubs on campus, start your own. With everyone searching for community, there is no shortage of events, clubs, and jobs on college campuses these days. Big or small, opportunities and experiences help you grow as a person and shape your character.
As much as you’d like to think you have many years in college to try new things and visit new places, the years go by fast. Graduation will come quickly, and you do not want to regret not trying new things. You know that thing you have been dreaming of and wanting to do? Do it today.
Erika Head is a NeW Chapter Leader and NeW Fall 2022 Communications Intern.