Back in high school, I remember going through the lists of organizations and extracurricular activities I could join, perusing different club banners and posters after school. I wondered what it would take to get me into college, what clubs I would most enjoy and what activities I would actually be good at. Nothing felt quite as serious then; though I knew it was important for me to get involved, I didn’t fully understand why.
Now as I enter the final weeks of my senior year here, I understand more clearly why joining student organizations, working part time or participating in research projects and other extracurriculars represent such important parts of an undergraduate education. I’ve begun to see why and how these elements of my college experience have helped me grow as a person, not only academically but also personally. And I think that’s true for everyone.
It’s not just because these club memberships and extracurricular opportunities gear us up for job hunts or more admissions cycles at the graduate level. It’s not just because they keep us busy. Trust me, I enjoy being busy, but I have seen firsthand at UF how much our schedules can get crammed; involvement is good and healthy, but not just for the sake of filling our weeks with meetings.
No, this involvement is beneficial for more than just that. We learn so much more about ourselves and the world around us when we go out of our bubbles, meet other people and work on shared goals with each other. The times outside of lecture halls and library cubbies have a lot to teach us, too.
I wouldn’t say I’m the most involved person at UF by any means. Still, I’ve observed and celebrated changes within myself as a result of the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had through my club involvement, work experiences and research projects. I’ll provide a few examples, and I promise I’m trying to be sincere — as trite as any of it may sound.
Take my work at this newspaper, for example: In addition to writing columns, in the past I’ve served as an editor in various sections of the paper. For sure, this has strengthened my skills in writing and AP style and enhanced my respect for journalism as a profession and passion. Beyond that, though, The Alligator has demonstrated to me how to care for fellow students and colleagues; how to admit, own up to and correct my mistakes (and there have been many of them) and how to embody stronger leadership skills.
Even the most academic research projects can show us more about ourselves. When I wrote and worked in my first research study, I made more mistakes and changed more elements of my project than I thought was humanly possible. Indirectly, research helped teach me the value of self-improvement and constantly aspiring to become better. I wanted the end product to be perfect, just right; what I learned from doing research is that sometimes we just have to try and enjoy that journey, rather than simply prioritizing the destination.
The friends I’ve made at places like The Alligator office, the Phi Sigma Pi chapter room and the philosophy department library have imparted to me more knowledge than a single lecture ever could. I believe the secret to becoming more well-rounded human beings lies in each and every one of us, if only we have the courage and confidence to talk to one another outside the classroom. And that, my friends, is way more valuable than another bullet point on a resume.
Mia Gettenberg is a UF criminology and philosophy senior. Her column focuses on education.