Trina Otero has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis [IUPUI], with training in Public Relations and minors in religious studies and international studies. While she studied she was involved in numerous student organizations and worked for the campus newspaper as a reporter. She’s a freelance writer, entrepreneur, tutor, activist, traveler, and the creator and blogger of her website Akosmopolite. She is aiming to obtain her yoga teaching certification, life coaching certification, and certification in Ayurvedic Medicine.
One of the best things about college is the opportunity to get involved with different groups to learn about different cultures, to share similar passions and goals, and to discover what you’d like to pursue in life! When I stepped onto campus it was like moving to a new world – so many different people, cultures, ideas, events… [and the list goes on]. I was eager to learn where my peers were originally from, how to say common greetings in their native language, and very important values such as their religion/faith. I also found myself gravitating towards social justice events and groups. So by being open-minded and a social butterfly, I had the chance to learn and nurture understanding for many different people, things, and ideas and to discover new interests and passions. This is the advice I can offer you!
1. Find the List or the Hub of Student Organizations at Your University
A quick way to find out which organizations are present and active is by checking the school website. Poke around online, especially under any tab that is similar to “Student Life,” “Campus & Community Life,” or “Campus Life.” Also try using the search bar if there is one, and search for “student organizations.”
Another way is through freshman introductory programs. Most universities have some type of “first-year seminar” programs that every freshman must take, and this introduces the students to campus life, study and work ethics, critical thinking, and possible college degrees and career paths. Ask any of your instructors in these courses where you can find out more information about student organizations. They will steer you in the right direction!
Ask your advisor. Even if you are indecisive about what to study you are most likely listed as a General Studies major [like I was] and you have an assigned advisor.
Lastly, keep your eyes open while you are walking to classes or hanging out on campus, because student organizations set up tables in high-traffic areas to share information and recruit members! You can’t miss them! You might notice a student organization that you aren’t particularly interested in, but ask them to show you where you can find the list or where the organizations’ offices/hubs are located.
2. Get Involved or Become a Member
Once you find a student organization that piques your interest, attend an event or meeting to feel it out. In the beginning of the first semester many organizations are very busy hosting small get-togethers or events to spread awareness about their orgs and their goals. This should give you an idea if you’d like to continue going to their events and if you’d like to be a member! Some organizations have membership fees for active members, usually just $5, but this is a fantastic opportunity to learn how to hold a leader position, work with a team, plan events, and accomplish goals! [Hint: Looks great on resumes and applications.]
3. Create One!
You heard me, create a student organization. If your school doesn’t have an organization for an idea or passion you think is important you have the freedom to create one and you can make it legit through the school. You can find out how to do this by asking other student orgs about the process, ask your advisor, or go to the office in charge of student involvement [I listed the variations of names this department may have in #1]. I’m sure there is paperwork involved, but it’s not hard, and then all you have to do is spread the word, recruit members and appoint leader positions.
4. If Possible, Live on Campus OR be Present on Campus Often
Living on campus will ensure the richest experience, hands down. It will also teach you how to manage your time wisely and be responsible, because let’s face it… it’s a lot of freedom with a lot of possible distractions. But the point I’m trying to make is that when you live on campus you find out about events, activities, EVERYTHING quickly and it’s easier to become involved. You get to know your neighbors, campus workers, faculty and staff on a more personal level.
Commuting to school takes time – time to drive to and from there – and you are more likely to only be present on campus when you have classes. Research has shown that on campus residents reap more benefits, including more involvement, compared to commuters. If you don’t live on campus, consider working on campus and if you can’t get work-study consider hanging out sometimes. Find some areas around campus to relax, study, and just hang with friends. By doing this you will want to stay on campus longer which will give you the opportunity to see and talk to more people and notice different events taking place!
5. Be Open and Friendly, Talk to Someone You Don’t Know but Seems Interesting
Last piece of advice I can offer is to step out of your comfort zone a smidge and talk to your classmates, the person in front of you in the food court line, the clerk at the library circulation desk – anyone! This is the only way you will meet people and develop your social skills. You might strike up a conversation with someone that is involved in activities or an organization that has similar interests as you. Or this person may be an upperclassman and have better knowledge of the university and campus life! Whatever the case, you are bound to learn something you didn’t know before!