By Nyjah Strange // Finance ’18
Four years ago, I left my home in Philadelphia and moved to Vermont to attend Champlain College. While there are many things I’ve learned since my first year, there are a few things I wish someone had told me before I left for college. Looking back on my college career and everything I’ve learned, accomplished and failed at, this is my advice for incoming students:
First, never forget your accomplishments and how you made them.
Keep a journal, blog, or diary and record all of your progressive excellence. Write down your thoughts, emotions, decisions, reactions and reflections. So, in five, 10, 20 or even 50 years from now, when you think life is getting rough, you can read what you recorded and remind yourself how strong you really are. No matter how big or small the problem is, with time, dedication and strategic thinking, you shall overcome it.
Second, practice healthy communication skills.
Pay attention to your words, how you use them and how you react to others. That’s why “intent versus impact” is an important lesson we all should learn as part of healthy communication. Not everyone speaks, processes, writes, thinks or understands certain situations the same way you do. We all come from different walks of life, and those differences are what make us unique. Because we think differently, communication is key to positive human interactions.
Third, be mindful of what you post on social media.
Pay attention to what you post online because it does stay there forever. The last thing any of us would want is for something associated with our social media accounts to come back and haunt us in the long term. For example, something you post today could interfere with you being able to get a specific job, obtain a letter of recommendation or be accepted into the college you want. Take a moment before the next time you post to your social accounts and ask yourself if you want this content to be part of what defines your online presence for the long term—the consequences could have more impact than you intend (see number two above).
Fourth, get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
We learn the most when we do things that lay just outside of our comfort zone. So, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to someone new. Apply for a work-study position you have no idea about. Ask for a raise. Be willing and ready to learn and experience new things in life. Stand up for not only yourself but also for others who are being silenced in your community. Be the person who you’d want to look up to, and dive in to things that make you uncomfortable, like moving away from home to college.
Fifth, never stop learning and exploring.
Do more than live in the moment—learn a new language, try new foods, study a new religion. Invest in your experience. Invest in your knowledge. Invest in your adventures. Invest in what motivates you to do what you absolutely love. Live and learn like you never have before.
Knowledge is the most powerful thing we all have the privilege to possess, and your diploma is the physical evidence of the knowledge you’ll gain after your four years of college. Not only is the Earth round, but it’s full of endless possibilities and incalculable experiences at your fingertips. Resolve to be a lifelong learner—you won’t regret it.
Lastly, be a productive bystander.
Don’t sit around and watch your community members suffer through acts of oppression, silencing and harassment. If you know that you have a positive influence in your community, show up, speak up and uplift others. If you know that people look up to you, be a leader and speak out against injustices in your community, school or workplace. If you know that you have privilege, use it as a platform to give people who are marginalized the opportunity to speak because some of them are continuously being silenced.
Be a sounding board for men, women, the LGBTQA+ community, the black community, the Hispanic and Latinx community, the Asian community, the African community, those who aren’t able-bodied, and different religious communities. Be a leader and open doors for different groups of people to express themselves and share their stories.
Speaking as a Champlain College graduate, I know over the next few years you will all blossom into individuals so intricate, authentic and unapologetic. You have passion and inspiration that will go beyond this campus. As long as you stay true to yourself, seize the moment and be the best person you possibly can, your time at Champlain will be daring and memorable.
It takes a village to raise a child, and as your new village, Champlain will do a fantastic job helping you grow as your new home. Good luck!