If you were much like me, you’ve been looking forward to university for a very long time. I grew up in a small town where I never connected with anybody, and I always longed for a new and fresh start somewhere else. College was always that opportunity I looked forward to. When I came to orientation as an out-of-state freshman knowing nobody here and realizing the big change I was making in my life, I was afraid university would just be a repeat of my old life. I’m glad to report that things turned out fine, and I was able to make irreplaceable connections and life long friends as a result of coming to the University of Utah. I attribute this success to two main factors: living on campus and getting involved in student groups.
Like many people, I wasn’t the most involved in high school. I played/managed for my high school soccer team, edited my school’s paper and played a defense attorney in the school’s teen court program, and I only did the last two my senior year. I realized early on I wasn’t peppy enough to get involved in student run organizations, and I wasn’t exactly planning on getting involved when I got to university. However, I was convinced to apply for the Freshman Ambassador board run by the Union Programming Council at orientation. While I was roaming the halls of the Union alone, I was dragged into the office. I met the friendly faces behind the organization who, in a few months, I would consider friends. They treated me as if I was one of them and we had known each other for years. That resonated with me at a time where I was intimidated by how alone I felt at orientation.
Through some stroke of luck, I passed the interview, and I was selected as one of the 30 or so members of the 2016 class of Freshman Ambassadors. When I went to the first meeting, I was concerned as to whether or not I made the right choice. I was a shy and introverted person among a group of former student leaders and motivated organizers, and I had never planned an event before in my life. Though it took some time, a family atmosphere began to form around this clan of awkward 18 and 19 year olds. Before I knew it, I had a group of friends who I could find myself being comfortable around. The bonding I experienced at events like Crimson Nights, our board retreat and the many small events we organized lead to cherished moments outside of the club with the same people.
Before coming to college, I never would have considered myself a leader. I was too timid, quiet and indecisive to ever trust myself in a position of influence. Luckily for me, my time in the council helped form my leadership skills. Although I may not be 100 percent confident in my abilities, I’m much more prepared to take the helm, and I am incredibly grateful I was able to develop such a useful skill. I was able to hone in on my personal passion for design by working with a full fledged marketing board as a freshman. As a result, I’ve been accepted as an associate director of the marketing board.
Joining this organization was easily the best decision I made my freshman year and perhaps in my entire life. I wouldn’t trade the friends and experiences I’ve gained for anything, and I’m glad I fought against my will to stay out of student organizations. In the case that you’re that quiet kid who’s looking for a fresh start, but doesn’t feel that student groups are for you, I implore you to take the chance. If you find that it’s not for you, it’s always easy to leave with no strings attached.
Supposing you are interested in joining an organization, student groups tables are in and around the Union at the beginning of the semester. Don’t be afraid to approach them and ask to sign up. They will be more than willing to talk to you about the opportunities you’ll find with them. An application to be a part of the Freshman Ambassador board can be found at union.utah.edu, or to be a part of ASUU’s First Year Council you can go to asuu.utah.edu/boards/firstyearcouncil.