Until college, parents typically make a lot of your life decisions: where you live, what school you attend, where you go on vacation, and what you eat for dinner.
But once you graduate, you have the opportunity to embark on your first big life experiment: building a life of your own, seeking to fulfill God’s call on your life and to live it abundantly. For many, higher education is the next step.
But what about when “going to college” doesn’t entail going anywhere?
For commuters and others attending school close to home, your parents, hometown, church, and high school friends are still very much a part of your life.
And that’s a great thing! But it’s important to realize that you don’t need to miss out on the fullness of the college experience. You just need to be intentional about making your college experience your own.
Get comfortable on campus
As a commuter, you’ll need to be more intentional about feeling like campus is “your space.” Of course, you should go to student events. But campus can be as much a second home for you as for anyone else.
Don’t miss the dining commons experience – eat on campus when you can. Study in the library or the student lounge. Work out in the gym. Practice your violin in the music building. After class, wander around and see who you bump into for spontaneous conversations and fun. After all, it’s what resident students do. The world is your living room.
Understandably, this can be awkward if you don’t know anybody. Whether you’re attending an event or just hanging out, campus is fruitful ground for meeting new people and forging friendships. Every interaction can teach you something, expand your horizons, and broaden your perspective and experience. Don’t just head home straight after class – stick around and ask questions, strike up a conversation, or pay someone a compliment. Just say hello!
As you get comfortable on campus, you’ll get to know the people and the place that you now belong to. Being observant opens up a lot of opportunities to plug in and serve. Open your eyes and take action.
As a member of a university community, getting involved isn’t just about padding your resume. Look for ways to serve your community. Find a niche that you are uniquely fit to fill:
- Run for a vacant student leadership position
- Approach classmates in a difficult course to start a study group, including people you don’t know
- Create a community of those who share your interests: a book club, a creative writing group, a beekeeping guild
- Get involved in the inner workings of the university through on-campus employment or internships
- Look for ways to serve the community – perhaps by spearheading a sustainability initiative, working as a teacher’s assistant for a professor, or running conversation groups for bilingual students
In short, get hands-on. Lead a club. Start a new club. Get a job. Create your own job. One of the best ways to get more value out of your education is by adding value to your learning community.
Get out of there
As important as it is to plug into your campus community, the world is a big place. Seize opportunities to serve, study, intern, or student teach abroad. As early as possible, look into a school’s international campuses or partnerships with organizations like Best Semester. If you’re an education major, professors may be able to connect you to an international student teaching network like CCTECC. For other majors, faculty and staff with global connections may be able to provide you with leads for internships and ministry opportunities.
Whether you live with your parents or a thousand miles away from home, college is a time to make your own and build a life that harnesses your strengths and passions. Either way, your college experience depends on you. Go make the most of it.