They say you learn the most when you overcome a challenge that alters your perspective. From my personal experience at Rutgers, this statement has held true in reflecting on my past and working towards my future with a set list of goals in mind through a rigorous process of trial and error. This transition occurs when a self-realization strikes, but what triggers this monumental epiphany? Your environment.
While it is essential to be an individual who evokes a positive response from the environment you set yourself in, it is equally important for the environment to instill within you a deep sense of responsibility, enlightenment, and encouragement. The best situation is created when an individual and his or her environment agree with each other. I have often pondered if my personal growth would have been as extensive had I not been a proactive Scarlet Knight myself.
Past the fumbling through typical college worries of draining out your bank account, leaving behind your family and friends, gaining academic stability and attempting to discover your niche, there are plenty of positive experiences and life lessons you gain from immersing yourself in your day-to-day navigation of Rutgers.
You might view it as a regular Monday morning run to grab the regular hot cup of coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts at the LSC, but we take for granted those little events that contribute to something greater. If we acknowledge everything in our surroundings as being a fruitful learning experience that equips us with virtues, we will be grateful for them later in life.
Here are some standard Rutgers experiences you might most certainly take for granted, but ones that will certainly serve a greater purpose in life and shape your development:
1) Discovering your niche among your strengths and weaknesses
Let’s face it: navigating a huge campus like Rutgers is a glimpse of real life. As intimidating as it may seem to be surrounding yourself with hundreds of strangers you encounter everyday, remember all of them are all in the same boat as you. One factor you all have in common is that you are each trying to accomplish a goal: paving your way through college and hopefully surviving.
There are so many different clubs, organizations and facilities on campus that it’s easy to feel like you are constantly searching for an identity. But on the flip side, the opportunities are endless here. With five different campuses, and a population of approximately 40,000 in total, its highly likely you have multiple chances at succeeding at something you might not even have encountered if you were at a small, much less intimidating school. It’s all trial and error.
2) Being the “Jack of all trades” is not inconceivable
The average Rutgers graduate I have been in contact with reaffirms how confident they feel stepping into job interviews and handling over their colorful resumes to potential employers. Why? It is incredibly impressive when a Computer Science major on the basketball team minoring in Women and Gender Studies joins a social fraternity, is on the Rutgers Dance Marathon executive board, and still maintains a part-time job as a correspondent for The Daily Targum. (This is just an example of how extensively involved you can be here, if your schedule permits it).
A majority of the organizations and clubs at Rutgers encourage participation regardless of prior experience. Interested in joining the International Student Association (ISA), but your home is only 30 miles away from campus? Not a worry, there is always an extra hand needed. Most clubs welcome you with open arms to membership.
3) Networking is key
I recently attended a Journalism and Media Studies (JMS) panel with distinguished alumni Lauren Caruso and Amy Baczkowski reflecting on how contrary to popular belief, a student’s GPA is not the make it or break it offer that will land you an enviable career prospect or interview.
You never know who could be your boss someday. The person sitting next to you could be, so always try learn from the person next to you,” said Lauren.
It’s all about learning appropriate social skills, being pro-active in your efforts to engage with different communities, and your open-mindedness with approaching people. More importantly, networking is not solely about how you exclusively can benefit from that interaction, but about the process of give-and-take, and how your skills could also help somebody else achieve their goal.
4) Patience is a useful virtue
Between having to wait for Webreg to load so you can register for all your classes, waiting for the next LX that does not seem to be overspilling with people, or waiting for the long line at King Neptune Night to shorten, Rutgers students all become accustomed to earning the fruits of their labor.
The real world does not have opportunities handed out on a silver platter, but Scarlet Knights are prepared and know that all good comes to those who wait. After all, enjoying an anticipated event after a long wait is more rewarding of a notion than automatically “making it”.
5) Appreciating diversity
Thriving in a melting pot nation and world that is increasingly orienting itself towards globalization requires open-mindedness in understanding the complexities and intricacies of diversity. This could mean diversity in components like race, religion, nationality, ethnicity, gender, differences in political attitudes, sexual orientation, or simply somebody who has a different opinion than you.
Rutgers is home to people harboring a multitude of opinions, attitudes and beliefs towards so many different issues. There is no room for intolerance, apathy or ignorance. Every individual possesses lessons you can learn from and apply to your own life, and you are likely to encounter all kinds of people on a daily basis that you might not always agree with.
Exercising tolerance, patience, and acknowledgement of different perspectives will be critical lessons to acquire throughout your duration of dealing with different people at Rutgers.
6) Don’t settle down in your comfort zone
Enjoying your laid-back schedule with 12 credits, no Friday classes and a flexible work schedule? Don’t count on that continuing for too long. Making adjustments and having to completely adapt to a new schedule, possibly new people and new housing are possibilities every future semester invites.
As it is with real life, situations are constantly dynamic and prone to complete upheaval whether it be academically, socially, professionally or emotionally. When students say their Rutgers journey passes them by in the blink of an eye, they are usually commenting on how fast-paced it is in having to constantly switch roles and priorities as new situations demand it.
7) Exploring Realistic Options
College is a time for experimentation. Experimentation within a safe, advising Rutgers community prepares you for your transition into the real world. It allows you to have a fair estimation of what your capabilities are, and how certain ambitions may be out of reach.
Small-scale rejections, such as being rejected from a fraternity or club executive board, can temporarily put a damper on your mood. Don’t let it. Let it instead strengthen you mentally for larger rejections in the future and more importantly, instill within you an increased self-awareness of your skills and qualities.
In conclusion, we each encounter several little letdowns or positive moments in our student lives that we take for granted or overemphasize at the time. In the bigger picture context, everyday at a well-renowned school like Rutgers equips students with the resources and opportunities to succeed.
How students choose to optimize and add value to the journey they build for themselves is an individual choice; but the Rutgers community is 100% credible, supporting and encouraging of students’ aspirations before they make their transition into the world beyond.